Tunisian army fires warning shots


Protesters shout slogans during a demonstration against the RCD party of deposed president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunis (AP)

The Tunisian army has fired warning shots in the capital as demonstrators marched toward the ruling party’s headquarters and government ministers quit the party in a desperate attempt to keep their jobs.

Demonstrators have criticised the country’s new unity government for being mostly made up of old guard politicians from the ruling party.

They are seeking the disbanding of the RCD party, founded by ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who fled to Saudi Arabia on Friday after 23 years in power.

Outside the gates of the party headquarters in Tunis, the army fired about 10 rounds into the air, scattering some protesters in the noisy but peaceful crowd. Others remained, chanting, “Down with the RCD!”

The warning shots came after a period of relative calm in Tunisia, which has been rattled by more than a month of unrest over the lack of jobs and alleged corruption in Ben Ali’s regime. Police even let protesters break a curfew to hold a sit-in near the Interior Ministry.

A caretaker government is now struggling to calm the moderate Muslim nation, popular among European tourists and seen as an ally in the West’s fight against terrorism.

Although the unity government includes a few opposition leaders for the first time, demonstrators say the big jobs are still in the hands of Ben Ali’s cronies.

Members of the interim government who belonged to the long-time ruling party have quit the party, the official TAP news agency said.

Prime minister Mohamed Ghannouchi and interim president Fouad Mebazaa had already quit the RCD earlier in the week.

In another attempt to ease tensions, the interim government has released all the country’s political prisoners.

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