Protests in Tunisian town after man killed in kiosk demolition

Governor, local officials fired by Tunisian PM.
Tuesday 13/10/2020
Riot police clash with protesters during demonstrations, in Kasserine, Tunisia December 25, 2018. REUTERS
Riot police clash with protesters during demonstrations, in Kasserine, Tunisia December 25, 2018. (REUTERS)

TUNIS--Street protests erupted in the centre-western town of Sbeitla, in the impoverished governorate of Kasserine, after the accidental killing of a man who was sleeping in an illegally-established kiosk that local authorities demolished early Tuesday morning.

The death sparked angry protests by residents who blocked roads and set fire to a municipal car in Sourour district, where the shop selling newspapers and cigarettes was located, witnesses said.

The protesters also threw stones and other objects at the security forces, said interior ministry spokesman Khaled Hayouni.

Immediately after the incident, Tunisian Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi announced his decision to fire several regional officials, including the governor, a district security chief and Sbeitla’s police head.

He also announced the launch of an official investigation.

Interior Minister Taoufik Charfeddine was instructed to offer “moral and material support” to the victim’s family.

Abderrazek Khachnaoui, the father of the shop’s owner, was killed in the operation, according to witnesses and his son.

“I was not informed of this decision… and agents of the municipality proceeded with the destruction without checking if there was someone inside,” said the son, 25-year-old Oussama Khachnaoui.

“My father, who was only 49 years old, died on the spot. Security agents fired tear gas at my family who had tried to approach my kiosk to save my father,” he added.

Military and security forces were deployed “as a precaution” to protect official buildings in the town, said defence ministry spokesman Mohamed Zekri.

Sbeitla has often seen protests in the past over lack of jobs and investment.

Youths often turn to selling agricultural products and home bread on sidewalks in order to support their family’s incomes while out of work.

Regions of Tunisia’s interior have high unemployment of about 30%. The national average is currently at 18% and could top 21% by the end of the year. Poverty is high and has increased as a result of the pandemic.