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Young Tunisian dies after being shot by customs officer during raid

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Tunisian prosecutors opened an investigation on Thursday into the death of a young suspected cigarette smuggler who was shot by a customs officer in central Tunis.

Mohsen Zeyani, 23, died in hospital late Wednesday after being shot during a raid on a car carrying contraband cigarettes in the Passage district of the capital, multiple media reports said.

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The customs service said in a statement that one of its patrols had “fired warning shots into the air and at the tires” of the car after a “crowd of smugglers” threw projectiles at officers.

One member of the patrol was “badly wounded” in the head, the statement said.

The entire patrol was remanded in custody pending the completion of the investigation, it added.

Videos showing a customs agent firing at a car were widely shared on social media on Wednesday evening.

Members of Zeyani’s family had gathered outside the hospital where he died, and several districts of the capital saw protests, according to media reports.

The incident came as social tensions grow in Tunisia, where an economic crisis marked by high inflation and youth unemployment has been accentuated by shortages of basic goods.

Since President Kais Saied staged a dramatic power grab in July last year, civil society groups have accused the security services of resorting to similar tactics to those used under autocrat Zine el Abidine Ben Ali who was toppled in a 2011 revolution.

Saied’s moves to concentrate almost all powers in the presidency have been seen as a threat to the North African country’s decade-long democratic experiment.

The revolt that toppled Ben Ali was sparked by the self-immolation of a young street trader after his goods were seized by police.

Anti-corruption watchdog I Watch condemned the security services, saying Zeyani’s death was “a scene of barbarism and infamy that will haunt this police state.”

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