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Violence, chaos continue in Tunisian capital

Violence and chaos continued Sunday in the Tunisian capital Tunis, according to eyewitness reports in the ongoing turmoil despite the end to the 23-year autocratic presidency of Zine el-Abidine ben Ali.

world Updated: Jan 16, 2011 18:36 IST

Violence and chaos continued Sunday in the Tunisian capital Tunis, according to eyewitness reports in the ongoing turmoil despite the end to the 23-year autocratic presidency of Zine el-Abidine ben Ali.

As the overnight looting and sound of gunfire continued, eyewitnesses spoke of an extremely tense atmosphere. Tanks were seen patrolling through the streets on Sunday morning.

A German-Tunisian national told DPA that as he was on his way to Tunis airport, "we were stopped five times by soldiers." The man's wife added: "I was totally frightened."

The tensions continued barely 48 hours after the tumultuous events Friday when a state of emergency was declared, followed by Ben Ali fleeing to Saudi Arabia.

In the immediate aftermath, Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi took over as interim president. But that move was a violation of the constitution, which stipulates that the speaker of parliament is the next in line of succession.

On Saturday, 77-year-old speaker of parliament Foued Mbazaa was sworn in as interim president after being appointed by the Constitutional Council.

Mbazaa instructed Ghannouchi to propose a unity government with ruling party and opposition members to govern until the next elections, which must be held within 60 days, according to the constitution.

The opposition, which was neutered under Ben Ali's rule, has been demanding to play a part in running the country, saying the current administration is corrupt and tainted by the police killing dozens of demonstrators.

Tunisia's political turmoil followed a month of unrest which was initially triggered in mid-December when a young unemployed man burned himself to death in a public protest against Tunisia's bleak employment and economic picture.

That act sparked further street demonstrations in Tunis and in cities elsewhere around the country, with the government responding with harsh measures, sending in riot police to shoot protesters, in turn fuelling further protests.

A day before Ben Ali fled, reports had put the number of deaths in the violence at over 60, while thousands of Tunisians continued to take to the streets to protest the killings.