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Tunisia: Prime Minister Resigns Following a Bloody Saturday

This post is part of our special coverage of Tunisia Revolution 2011.

Interim government Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannoushi has stepped down following a bloody Saturday in the capital Tunis. The clashes that started on Friday night in Habib Bourguiba Avenue, between security forces and protesters led to the death of three people.

Hbib Bouguiba Avenue on Friday afternoon, photo by Khaled Nciri

These acts of violence followed a peaceful and massive demonstration on Friday in front of the Interior Ministry. It is almost a certainty that this rioting and the acts of deliberately damaging public and private properties were organized and prepared in advance. However, the question remains on who is responsible.
On its Facebook page, the Interior Ministry confirms that these acts were organised but gave no comments or hints on who is to blame:

عمد بعض الأشخاص من مثيري الشّغب الذين اندسّوا في صفوف المتظاهرين سلميّا واستخدموا مجموعة من الشبان في سن الدراسة دروعا بشرية للقيام بأعمال شغب وحرق وعنف بعد ظهر اليوم السبت 26 فيفري 2011 مستعملين العصي والحجارة

A number of rioters, deliberately infiltrated into a peaceful protest and they deployed young students as human shields to spread violence, rioting and arson acts on the afternoon of February 26, using rocks and sticks

A Tunisian blogger says:

Et voila que même le ministère le confirme, ce qui se passe à l'avenue HB, ce sont des actes préparés à l'avance et visent à délégitimer le sit-in de la Kasbah, message à tout tunisien ayant même une petite goûte de patriotisme, soyez vigilant, pas de violence, pas de destruction, c'est notre Tunisie, quelque soit vos convictions, pour ou contre le gouvernement, ne vous laissez pas manipuler; semer le désordre c'est justement là ou on veut nous mener…

The Interior Ministry has confirmed it: what's happening in Habib Bourguiba Avenue, are organised acts in advance to portray the sit-in at the Kasbah square as illegitimate. A message for all patriotic Tunisians: be careful, no for violence, no for destruction, it's our Tunisia, regardless of your opinions whether for or against the interim government. Don't be manipulated and do not spread disorder, we do not want to get there…

Nicolas Beau, a French journalist and writer, describes the Avenue Habib Bourguiba following the bloody Saturday:

Ce matin dimanche, l'avenue Bourguiba, où des casseurs ont à nouveau sévi dans la nuit sans que la police n'intervienne vraiment, est fermé aux voitures, mais aussi aux passants.

On Sunday morning, Bourguiba avenue, where trouble makers have committed crimes last night, without any real intervention of the police, is closed for cars and for pedestrians.

He adds:

On voit en effet des supplétifs de la police, jeunes et en tennis, armés de longues lattes de bois, frapper méthodiquement et violemment, les jeunes manifestants et les traquer dans les halls d'immeuble. Pour peu qu'un portable soit aperçu, et immédiatement les nervis le fracassent, de peur des photos.

In fact, we see a small number of police officers, young people armed with long wooden batons, violently beating young protesters and tracking them down to the lobbies of apartment buildings. The minute they observe a mobile phone, they immediately smash it fearing that it could be used take photos

On Sunday, the confrontations continue in Hbib Bourguiba Avenue.

Lina Ben Mheni, a human rights activist (@benmhenilina) tweets:

DES bombes lacrymogènes à l'Avenue Habib Bourguiba le cauchemar continue

Tear gas in Habib Bourguiba Avenue. The nightmare continues

The acts of violence and vandalism did not take place only in Tunis, but also in the province of Kasserine, situated in west-central Tunisia.

Abu Sofiane (@AbuSofiane) tweets:

ce qui c'est passé à kasserine est ignoble ! ce gouvernement doit démissionné ce sont des criminels

What happened in Kasserine is disgraceful. This government should resign, they are criminals

Kais elloumi (@kaiselloumi) tweets:

les évènements de Kasserine ne semblent pas être spontanés…. bizarre qu'ils coïncident avec le grand rassemblement de La Kasba

The events in Kasserine do not seem to be spontaneous… It's weird that they overlap with the mass rally at the Kasbah square

In reaction to these violent events, the residents of Kasserine held a massive rally on Saturday against all acts of violence and vandalism but also against the interim government. According to http://thalasolidaire.over-blog.com:

Aujourd’hui, des milliers de manifestants sont dans les rues de Kasserine pour dénoncer ces pillages et ces incendies des institutions publiques et pour exiger, en même temps, la dissolution du gouvernement Ghannouchi

Today, thousands of demonstrators gathered in the streets of Kasserine, to condemn the pillaging acts, and at the same time to demand for the departure of the government of Ghannoushi

This post is part of our special coverage of Tunisia Revolution 2011.

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