| 13.8°C Belfast

Tunisia imposes nationwide curfew as youth unemployment protests escalate


Police fire tear gas during clashes in the city of Ennour, near Kasserine (AP)

Police fire tear gas during clashes in the city of Ennour, near Kasserine (AP)

Police fire tear gas during clashes in the city of Ennour, near Kasserine (AP)

Tunisia has imposed a nationwide overnight curfew in response to growing unrest over unemployment after protests across the country descended into violence in several cities.

The curfew from 8pm until 5am was imposed because the attacks on public and private property "represent a danger to the country and its citizens", the Interior Ministry said.

On Thursday night, police stations came under attack and security officers used tear gas to repel protesters armed with stones and Molotov cocktails.

In housing projects on the outskirts of the capital, Tunis, roving groups of young people pillaged a bank and looted stores and warehouses.

Prime minister Habib Essid cut short a visit to France to deal with the protests, which were triggered on Sunday when a young man who lost out on a government job climbed a transmission tower in protest and was electrocuted.

Tunisia's unemployment stands around 15%, but is 30% among young people.

Tunisia has been under a state of emergency since a suicide bombing in November killed 12 members of the presidential guard in the heart of Tunis - an attack that capped an unusually violent year for the country.

That bombing, as well as attacks earlier in the year against the Bardo museum and the beach resort of Sousse, were claimed by the Islamic State group.

The suicide five years ago of another unemployed youth set off a popular uprising that overthrew Tunisia's long-time ruler, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and gave rise to the Arab Spring uprisings across North Africa.

In an interview in Paris just before his government imposed the curfew, Mr Essid denied the context of the two deaths was comparable.

"Tunisia has completely changed from a dictatorship to a young democracy. You know during youth there are periods of adolescence that you have to get through. We have a difficult job and we are aware of the difficulty."

France is offering a billion euros (£750 million) in aid to Tunisia, including aid to regions where young people are struggling.

President Francois Hollande announced the aid over five years after a meeting with Mr Essid .