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14 Dead in Tunisia Riots


TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisia's Interior Ministry said Monday that 14 people were killed in weekend rioting in three towns in the deadliest episodes in more than three weeks of unusual unrest in this popular tourist destination.

The figure raises the earlier death toll for the weekend from eight.

The violence, which began Dec. 17 with protests over joblessness and other social ills, has scarred cities and towns around this small North African country.

The ministry says the western towns of Thala and Kasserine counted five deaths each Saturday and Sunday, while four died in the central-western town of Regueb.

Union officials around Tunisia have provided their own death counts, higher than the official number.

Both sides say there are numerous injuries among demonstrators and police, some critical.

Tunisian authorities have said earlier that two people were shot to death by police in previous rioting.

The unrest began after a 26-year-old man with a university degree set himself on fire when police confiscated his fruits and vegetables for selling without a permit. The man later died, and the desperate act touched a nerve with educated, unemployed youth nationwide.

Mobs have since attacked public buildings and the local office of the party of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Ben Ali. He has ruled this Muslim nation of 10 million with an iron hand since taking power in a bloodless coup in 1987, and such outbursts of public dissent have been extremely rare.

In neighboring Algeria, meanwhile, three people died over four days of rioting, the Interior Ministry there said this weekend. Algerian youths took to streets to protest rising prices of staples like sugar and cooking oil. The Algerian government announced Saturday it was slashing taxes on those products by 41 percent. Calm appeared to prevail since Sunday.

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