Tunisia Extends State of Emergency, Ends Curfew


Tunisian authorities extended Tuesday a state of emergency imposed as president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled a month ago but ordered an end to a nationwide curfew, the official TAP news agency said.

The interior ministry also warned in a statement against attempts to sow discord between the police and army in the fragile North African country and condemned protests by "extremists," the news agency reported.

"To prevent anything that may harm the security of the state and to ensure the security of citizens and protection of public and private goods, it was decided to extend the state of emergency from Tuesday February 15 until further notice," the statement noted.

The state of emergency had been imposed on January 14 as strongman Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia in the face of a popular revolt that saw nearly a month of demonstrations against unemployment, living costs and the government.

The country has confronted pockets of unrest since then and was forced this month to call up reservists to bolster the army.

The interior ministry also said the nationwide curfew, in force since January 12 at the height of the popular revolt against Ben Ali, was being lifted across the country.

Its statement condemned protests by "extremists" and slogans that it said called for more violence.

It also called for the police, behind a violent crackdown of the protests against Ben Ali, to be vigilant against "desperate attempts" to stir conflict between them and the army, which had sided with the protestors.

About 200 people were killed in security force efforts to quell the so-called "Jasmine Revolution" that ended Ben Ali's 23 years in power.

His ouster inspired similar protest movements across the Middle East and North Africa and was the prelude to the even more dramatic toppling of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak last week.

The interim government led by Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi has vowed to hold Tunisia's first free elections within six months, declared full freedom of speech and adopted an amnesty law for those persecuted by the former regime.

But some members of the interim authority have accused Ben Ali loyalists of fomenting unrest against the new leadership in an attempt to derail the transition to democracy.

As the government grapples with the instability, its foreign minister quit on Sunday and Italy has piled on pressure for it to stop illegal migration after a flood of its citizens crossed into Italy in the past week.

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