Death toll in Tunisia rises and Ben Ali fires his interior minister

posted May 13, 2011, 7:30 AM by Research Assistants

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia

  • January 12th, 2011 1:49 pm ET

Fresh waves of violence spread to the capital Tunis and more people were killed today in the interior states. Hatem Bettaher, a university professor, and Riad Ben Oun, an electrician, were killed and a number of residents wounded during Wednesday's clashes. 

Previously quiet, the town of Douz, 550 kilometers (340 miles) south of the capital Tunis, has witnessed violence for the first time since protests began in December 18, 2010.

The International Federation for Human Rights and labor organizations say the death toll surpassed 50. The interior ministry gives an official figure of 21. Most clashes were reported in the capital, where the government deployed additional security personnel earlier Wednesday to quell violence.

On Monday, the Tunisian Education Ministry closed the country’s schools and universities indefinitely. Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who has described the protests as “terrorist acts,” has fired his interior minister, order all prisoners released, and promised to investigate corruption charges leveled against his regime. Critics of Ben Ali remain skeptical, however, suggesting that the president is making empty promises.

Signifying the deteriorating conditions in the country and for the first time since the start of the uprising, troops in armored vehicles took position at major intersections and near public buildings, foreign embassies, and near the Television and Radio building in the capital.