More than 200 people were wounded as clashes between Tunisian security forces and thousands of protesters in the impoverished town of Siliana raged on for the second straight day, medical sources say. One reporter was also injured by shotgun fire.
A doctor at the hospital in Siliana told AFP on Wednesday the injured were being treated for different types of injury, with four of them transferred to Tunis.
FRANCE24’s Tunisia correspondent David Thomson was also injured by shotgun fire in the melee. While receiving treatment, Thomson tweeted from the hospital that many others had sustained far more serious injuries. His driver was also injured in the clashes.
Other protesters also bore facial injures which were apparently caused by shotgun pellets.
State television had earlier reported that at least 80 people were injured.
Angry protesters incensed the regional governor had failed to tackle unemployment amassed in the town center, with the clashes kicking off by early afternoon.
The country’s National Guard deployed armored vehicles as protesters erected makeshift barricades in the streets.
Protesters pelted security forces with rocks, who responded by firing tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.
The scene closely mirrored protests which erupted in the town on Tuesday.
Many protesters called for local officials to step down, citing chronic mismanagement of development funds in the poor farming region. Siliana, which lies 75 miles south of the capital Tunis on the edge of the Sahara desert, saw investment plummet by 44.5 percent from January to October on a year-over-year basis.
Following the 2010 uprising which saw the ouster of longtime President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, unemployment has skyrocketed in the country.
The interior ministry has not commented on the ongoing street clashes, though the prime minister’s office registered the concern with the unfolding events.
It also described as regrettable “the use of violence against the security forces, aggression at the headquarters of sovereignty, and attempts to damage public property,” AFP reports.
The clashes were the most violent since Salafi Islamists fell on the US embassy in Tunis to protest the incendiary film Innocence of Muslims in September.
On Tuesday, the World Bank approved a $500 million loan to Tunisia to aid the country’s ailing economy, with a separate $700 million coming from other donors.
It is the second loan approved by the World Bank since the Arab Spring swept Ben Ali from power.