Tunisia protester ‘accidentally’ killed in south: ministry

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A young protester was killed Monday after a police vehicle “accidentally” ran him over outside an oil and gas installation in south Tunisia after weeks of social unrest, a ministry said.

“The health ministry announces the accidental death of a young man, (run over) by the national guard. He was a protester,” the ministry told AFP.

Protesters have been camping outside the El Kamour oil and gas pumping station for around a month, blocking truck access to the site to demand they be given a share of local resources and priority in jobs in the sector.

Tensions have risen in recent days at the site in the Tataouine region around 500 kilometers (300 miles) south of Tunis, with security forces firing tear gas at demonstrators on Monday as they tried to storm the installation.

Soldiers fired warning shots at protesters in El Kamour on Saturday.

It was the first such escalation since President Beji Caid Essebsi said earlier this month the army would protect key economic installations from being disrupted by protests over social and labour issues.

Late Sunday, the defence ministry in a statement warned the army would resort to force against anyone who tried to enter the grounds of these installations.

The statement warns “all citizens of legal proceedings in the case of clashes with military or security units” and of possible casualties in “the case of a gradual escalation of use of force”.

“One must understand that attempting to enter by force an installation protected by the army... is not a peaceful act... It requires a reaction,” ministry spokesman Belhassen Oueslati told Express FM radio on Monday.

An AFP correspondent said clashes also erupted on Monday morning outside the Tataouine governor’s office after local residents staged a protest in support of the El Kamour sit-in.

Footage shared on social media showed at least one demonstrator who was injured, and ambulances arriving, sirens screaming, at the town hospital.

In January 2016, Tunisia was rocked by some of the worst social unrest since the 2011 revolution that toppled veteran dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Anger erupted after the death of a 28-year-old unemployed man who was electrocuted when he climbed a power pole while protesting in the central town of Kasserine.

That unrest had echoes of the public anger after the death of a young fruit seller who set himself on fire in Sidi Bouzid in December 2010 in protest at unemployment and police harassment.