Unrest in Tatatouine province have escalated into violence after protesters targeted oil and gas facilities to block production to pressure Prime Minister Youssef Chahed’s government for work and development in the marginalized region.
“One young man died in the Tatatouine protests. He was hit by a police car in the protest,” a Health Ministry source said.
State-run Tatatouine Radio said youths had burned out two local police stations during the clashes and police had withdrawn from the town. Images from the town showed burned out vehicles in the street and charred walls of police offices.
Protesters earlier briefly forced the closure of the Vana pumping station in Tatatouine, one of several oil and gas facilities affected over the weekend, after the army allowed an engineer to shut it to avoid a confrontation.
The Defense Ministry said on Sunday it would use force to protect and retake southern oil and gas facilities, and clashes broke out at Vana on Monday when the military took back control to restart the pump, two witnesses said.
“The Defense Ministry warns citizens of the risk of prosecution following altercations with military units, and bodily harm resulting from aggression or violations accessing facilities under their control,” it late on Sunday.
Protesters pressing demands for jobs and a share of the country’s energy wealth forced the closure of two oil and gas pumping stations, where Italy’s ENI SpA, Austria’s OMV AG and France’s Perenco operate, and where Prime Minister Youssef Chahed had already deployed troops.
Tunisia is a small oil producer with an output of about 44,000 barrels per day.
But the closures represent a clear challenge to the authority of Chahed’s government as it tries to enact economic reforms demanded by international lenders and consolidate Tunisia’s transition to democracy six years after an uprising ended the autocratic rule of Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.
Southern and central regions have erupted into rioting and protest several times since the 2011 revolt with many unemployed youths complaining the fall of Ben Ali and transition to democracy bought little economic opportunities for them.-ARAB NEWS