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Violence is 'terrorism', says Tunisian president

Violence is 'terrorism', says Tunisian president
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Reports from Tunisia say 10 more people have been killed in clashes between security forces and anti-government demonstrators.

The latest figures come from an Arabic news agency quoting doctors in the town of Kasserine, where more violence was reported on Monday.

If confirmed, the deaths are in addition to the 14 acknowledged by the government; more than 20 according to the opposition.

The authorities blamed the protesters and said police fired on crowds in self-defence.

“The events were violent, sometimes bloody,” said President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, facing the worst crisis in his 23 years in power. “Civilians were killed and several members of the security forces were wounded. The events were the work of masked gangs who attacked at night government buildings and even civilians inside their homes – terrorist acts that cannot be overlooked.”

In response to people’s anger, however, the president promised that hundreds of thousands of jobs would be created for the long-term unemployed.

At least three towns outside the capital Tunis are said to have been gripped by renewed violence. A union official said the hospital in Kasserine was struggling to cope with the injured and was now under army control.

The US and the EU are concerned about the government clampdown.

“We call for restraint in the use of force and for respect of fundamental freedoms, in particular we call for the immediate release from detention of bloggers, journalists, lawyers and other people who were detained,” said EU Foreign Affairs spokeswoman, Maja Kocijancic.

Tunisia had been trying to woo the EU. But the violence has exposed widespread frustration with the economy and the ruling elite – as well as the government’s intolerance towards dissent.