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Hundreds arrested in Tunisia austerity protests

protesters clash with riot police attempting to disperse the crowd during demonstrations against rising prices and tax increases, in Tebourba, Tunisia, January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
Image: Tunisians have started to express frustration over austerity

More than 600 people have been arrested in Tunisia in the last week for theft, looting and arson as tensions over austerity measures reach boiling point.

A third night of unrest in several cities and towns saw the arrests of 328 people on Wednesday alone, as protesters blocked roads and threw Molotov cocktails at police.

A regional national security headquarters near the Algerian border was burned down, prompting authorities to send in troops after police retreated, witnesses said.

The government has failed to resolve the issues of poverty and unemployment since the Arab Spring uprisings which began in Tunisia in 2011 and spread across the Middle East.

The Arab revolutions saw people rise against oppression and authoritarianism, fighting for more democracy.

protesters clash with riot police attempting to disperse the crowd during demonstrations against rising prices and tax increases, in Tebourba, Tunisia, January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
Image: Twenty-one members of the security forces were injured

Tunisia has been seen as a rare success story of the uprising that toppled longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, but people still feel disenfranchised.

Tunisians have started to express frustration over austerity measures expected to further increase prices in a struggling economy.

The North African country introduced hikes in VAT and social contributions as part of its new budget.

Twenty-one members of the security forces were injured, ministry spokesman Khalifa Chibani said.

Middle East and North Africa political specialist Olfa Lamloum says the measures will be “the straw that breaks the camel’s back”.

protesters clash with riot police attempting to disperse the crowd during demonstrations against rising prices and tax increases, in Tebourba, Tunisia, January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
Image: A third night of unrest saw the arrests of 328 people

“Young people are disappointed with the revolution, especially because of the high cost of living,” she said, pointing to “deepening social inequalities” highlighted by official figures showing rising poverty, unemployment and illiteracy among young people.

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Protests are common in the North African state in the month of January, when Tunisians mark the anniversary of the 2011 revolution.

The uprising began in December 2010 after street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire and later died in a protest over unemployment and police harassment.

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