A few hours ago:
Tunisian President Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali fired his government and called an early parliamentary election on Friday in an increasingly frantic effort to quell the worst unrest in his two decades in power.
Authorities declared a state of emergency and an overnight curfew. Gatherings of more than three people were banned and state television warned that “arms will be used” if the orders of the security forces are not obeyed.
The announcements came as police fired teargas and gunshots rang out to disperse crowds in central Tunis demanding the veteran ruler’s immediate resignation despite his promise on Thursday to step down in 2014.
Medical sources and a witness said 12 more people were killed in overnight clashes in the capital and the northeastern town of Ras Jebel.
Before the latest deaths emerged, the official death toll in almost a month of violence was 23, while the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights said it had a list of at least 66 people killed.
The 74-year-old president announced in a television address on Thursday evening that he would not seek a sixth term as expected in 2014, following a month of violent protests against unemployment, repression and corruption.
While Tunisia’s problems are shared by other countries in the region, the latest unrest was sparked when police prevented an unemployed graduate from selling fruit without a license and he set fire to himself, dying shortly afterwards of his burns.
In power since 1987, Ben Ali made sweeping concessions, saying security forces would no longer use live ammunition against protesters and promising freedom of the press and an end to Internet censorship. He also said the prices of sugar, milk and bread would be cut.
On Friday, state television flashed the announcement: “The president has decided to dismiss the government and to hold legislative elections within six months.” It gave no details.
But protests continued in the capital and other cities on Friday. Around 8,000 people rallied outside the interior ministry in central Tunis, chanting “Ben Ali, leave!” and “Ben Ali, assassin!”
After police fired teargas and wielded their truncheons, crowds of youths retreated a little way from the building and started throwing stones at the police, who responded with more tear gas grenades. Reporters also heard gunfire nearby.
Tunisian president flees; PM announces he’s taking over
After declaring state of emergency and dismissing entire government, Ben Ali reportedly in France; military closes Tunisian airspace.
Speaking at a press conference Friday, Tunisian Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi said that the country’s president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, had fled the country, reportedly to France. The prime minister added that he was taking over the government.
Following the president’s departure, the Tunisian army seized the airport and closed Tunisian airspace to all traffic.
Tunisia is where Carthage was. It is a small country on the north shore of Africa, west of Libya, east of Algeria, due south of Sardinia, and south west of Sicily. According to Wikipedia:
Today Tunisia has an authoritarian regime. It is an export-oriented country, in the process of liberalizing and privatizing its economy but has rife corruption benefiting the president’s family. The country operates as a nominal republic under the leadership of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali who has governed since 1987. The Tunisian economy has averaged 5% GDP growth since the early 1990s. A popular revolution is currently underway.
So let’s see if this revolution gets as far as democracy and capitalism, or if this is another more example of one tinpot dictator replacing another. Tunisia has been an ally in the GWOT so far. No word on whether the insurrection / popular revolution is a call for another islamic republic.
Tunisia is an oil exporting nation, along with fertilizer and some manufacturing. They are one of the most productive nations in Africa, eclipsing Greece, Italy, and Portugal in terms of economic competitiveness, and a 2009 per capita GDP of over $8250.
Liveblog of the situation in Tunisia can be found here, and Al Jazeera is covering this fully. Oh, if only Fox News had an African American subdivision!
Remember in the beginning of the movie “Patton” where he has the driver pull the jeep over and describes an ancient battlefield where the Arab women and kids were slitting the throats of the fallen soldiers and stripping the bodies???
When I saw that headline I thought it was about Obama! Damn. It was exciting for a second though.