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World

Tunisia suspends former ruling party after weekend of violence

Tunisia's interim government took a major step in fighting back against the ousted regime of former President Ben Ali, saying it would ban all meetings of his party, the RCD, and shut down all its offices.

A burnt out, overturned car at the site of the Sidi Bouzid demonstration

The security situation is still very fragile in Tunisia

The Tunisian Interior Ministry suspended the political party of ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on Sunday, following a weekend of violence that killed at least three people.

Interior Minister Fahrat Rajhi read a statement on state-run television, saying the decision to suspend all the activities of the RCD party of was made with the aim of "preserving the supreme interest of the nation and to avoid any violation of the law."

Rajhi said the ministry had decided to "ban all meetings or gatherings organized by its members and to shut offices belonging to this party or managed by it." He said this would take effect ahead of an official request to the judiciary to dissolve the party.

Weekend of violence

The announcement followed violence across the country over the weekend that killed at least three people and wounded more than a dozen others. In the southern town of Kebili, a youth was killed after being hit by a tear gas canister during protests over the appointment of a new governor.

A rally by hundreds of protesters in front of the police station in El Kef, 175 kilometers (109 miles) south-west of the capital Tunis, degenerated when they tried to occupy its premises on Saturday. Two demonstrators, aged 19 and 36, were killed in the violence. Reports of two more deaths were not confirmed.

"About 1,000 people gathered in a protest in front of Kef's police station to demand the dismissal of the head of the police in the city for power abuse while exercising his duties," an Interior Ministry official said.

Witnesses told state-run television that the protest started after the police chief, Khaled Ghazouani, slapped a woman in the face.

Protesters later pelted the police station with stones and threw fire bombs at the force guarding the building. Footage on state-run television showed a police van on fire.

Protesters in Tunis

Last month's protests are seen the catalyst to political upheaval across the Arab world

Taking action

The regional prefect, Mohamed Najib Tlijali, called for calm on a local radio Saturday night, adding that the head of police in the city of Kef was himself hospitalized and under arrest.

Last week the United Nations said that at least 219 people died during and in the immediate aftermath of Tunisia's month-long uprising, which culminated in the ouster of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Tunisia remains tense after demonstrations pushed the autocratic Ben Ali into exile in Saudi Arabia on January 13.

Four policemen had been arrested earlier on Saturday on suspicion of links to the death on Friday of two civilians while in police custody in Sidi Bouzid, where the popular revolt that have reverberated across the Arab world began.

Last week the United Nations said that at least 219 people died during and in the immediate aftermath of Tunisia's month-long uprising

Authors: Andrew Bowen, Natalia Dannenberg (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

Editor: Andreas Illmer

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