Four more die in Tunisia riots

New clashes have erupted in Tunisia after police opened fire and killed four people overnight, oppostition officials say.

New clashes have erupted in Tunisia after police opened fire and killed four people overnight, oppostition officials say.

Rioters were hurling stones at government buildings and police were firing tear gas in the capital Tunis.

The trouble came as youths angry about unemployment defied a government curfew aimed at calming more than three weeks of violent protest.

Police were deployed on key thoroughfares in the capital, which until this week had been spared the violent unrest erupting in provincial towns.

Stores around the capital were shuttered.

The Interior Ministry building and a municipal services building were among targets of protesters’ anger.

Police have repeatedly shot at protesters in more than three weeks of violence that has rocked the country.

The official death toll is at least 23 dead, including four killed overnight. Opposition figures and witnesses say it is more than 50, including the deaths overnight near Tunis and in the northern region of Bizerte.

A French and a Swiss citizen were among those killed, the two European governments said today.

The unprecedented violence has revealed deep anger against autocratic President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s government.

Ben Ali has gone on national TV in an appeal for calm and to pledge job creation, but his efforts have not done much to stop the unrest.

Mourad Yacoubi, a member of the PDP party, said two people were shot dead and another was severely injured after being hit by gunfire in a housing project outside Tunis.

To the north, in the town of Menzel-Bourguiba in Bizerte, a young man was also killed, said Ghousami.

Ghousami said another person, was shot and killed in the nearby town of Sekma.

The Swiss Foreign Ministry said a woman with dual Swiss-Tunisian citizenship died in northern Tunisia. Swiss radio reported the woman was killed by a stray bullet while watching a protest a day earlier.

Another victim was a professor of computer science in France, at the University of Technology at Compiegne. University spokeswoman Nadine Luft said Hatem Bettahar had taught there for a decade and had travelled to Tunisia to see his mother.

Slah Nebti, a Tunisian teacher, said Bettahar was shot by police in a protest in the central city of Douz. He filmed a video of the shooting’s aftermath and posted it to Facebook: It showed Bettahar lying in a pool of blood, and the crowd shouting “God is Great!” in Arabic.

The French Foreign Ministry said it was looking into the circumstances of Bettahar’s death.

Ben Ali, 74, has maintained an iron grip on Tunisia since grabbing power 23 years ago.

The image of stability and religious moderation helps draw millions of mostly European visitors a year to the Mediterranean beaches of this small North African nation, making tourism the mainstay of the economy.

The economy’s weak point is unemployment – officially nearly 14%, but higher for educated youths.

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