By Tarek Amara
TUNIS -Tunisian protesters angered by an authority’s decision to reopen a controlled landfill in the southern town of Agareb set fire to a police station on Tuesday, witnesses said.
The escalation of the protest came a day after the death of a man caused by asphyxiation from gas fired by the police, according to his family and witnesses.
The interior ministry said the man was not involved in the protests and had died at his home, six kilometres away.
Violent confrontations took place on the streets of Agareb as police fired tear gas to disperse protesters trying to block roads and throw stones at them.
With the situation in the town still tense, army forces arrived to protect public institutions and buildings, witnesses and state media said.
The incident is the first serious test facing Najla Boden’s government, appointed by president Kais Saied last month, in how to respond to protests over poor public services and fragile social and environmental conditions.
The Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) has called for a strike in the public and private sectors in Agareb on Wednesday to protest the use of force against the protesters and to support their demands.
The Agareb landfill, 20km from Sfax, was closed this year after residents complained about the spread of diseases in what they described as an environmental disaster.
The closure caused thousands of tons of household waste to accumulate for about a month in the streets, markets and hospitals of Sfax, the second largest Tunisian city, prompting thousands to protest.
Saied has faced mounting criticism since he assumed executive authority in July, brushing aside most of the constitution to seize almost total power in what critics have described as a coup.