Tunisian president flees as rioting protestors force him from power

TUNISIA’S president was yesterday forced out of office following protests in which thousands mobbed the capital to demand his ouster.

State television announced that President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali had fled to Malta and would be replaced temporarily by Mohamed El Ghannouchi, the prime minister.

During yesterday, gunfire rang out across Tunis, clouds of tear gas filled the streets and police beat any protesters they could grab.

President Ben Ali was facing his toughest challenge yet in 23 years of repressive rule after weeks of anti-government riots across the North African nation.

Protesters thronged the capital, fuelled by pent-up anger at high unemployment and at a leadership many see as controlling and corrupt. Marching through the city, ome climbed onto the roof of the Interior Ministry — a symbol of his iron-fisted regime.

In response, Ben Ali first dissolved the government and promised early legislative elections would take place within six months. He made no reference to resigning at the time, but later left the country.

Thousands of tourists, meanwhile, were evacuated.

Travel advisory

THE Government is advising against “all non-essential travel” to Tunisia after violent protests.

A travel advisory bulletin issued on the Department of Foreign Affairs website described the situation as unpredictable and advised people against travelling to the traditionally popular north African country.

Ireland does not have an embassy in Tunisia and is instead represented by the honorary consul in Tunis. Diplomatic relations with the country are handled by the Irish embassy in Spain.

Irish citizens in Tunisia are advised to register their details with the department at www.dfa.ie

Conall Ó Fátharta

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