Tunisian Govt. to Increase Financial Support for Poor Families

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi at a meeting with political parties unions and employers

Authorities said Friday the number of people detained in the wave of violent protests had risen to almost 800, after a provincial town was hit by a night of unrest over the austerity measures.

The government will increase aid for poor families and needy people such as pensioners by 170 million dinars ($70.3 million), Mohamed Trabelsi, minister of social affairs, told reporters.

Friday was totally quiet, in Tunisia, after three nights of unrest.

Around two hundred protestors marched through the streets of the Tunisian capital to demonstrate against austerity measures introduced by the government at the beginning of the year.

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Activists and the opposition have called for fresh protests on Sunday, the seventh anniversary of Ben Ali's overthrow.

This follows a week of unrest, which saw a surge in violent protests that resulted in dozens of state buildings being damaged, mass looting, one death and at least 800 detentions.

One man died in the unrest on Monday night, but the authorities have insisted the police were not responsible.

The protests began against the background of rising prices, and increasing taxes on what the government made of the need to reduce a significant budget deficit.

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Interior Ministry spokesperson Khlifa Chibani said on Friday on Mosaique FM radio that 778 people have been arrested nationwide in the unrest, including 16 religious extremists.

While the Interior Ministry Spokesman Khelifa Chibani has said "what is happening is crime, not protests", campaigners accuse the government of an "indiscriminate" crackdown. The Tunisian people have become increasingly angry since the government said it would increase the price of petrol, some goods, and taxes on cars, phone calls, the internet, hotel accommodation and other items from January 1. The economy worsened since a vital tourism sector was almost wiped out by a wave of deadly militant attacks in 2015, and has yet to recover despite improved security.

Its democracy remains for the most part intact and a secular party now leads the government in coalition with a moderate Islamist group. Many people face unemployment, with official figures put the unemployment rate at around 15 percent.

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