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Strike, protest in Tunisia town as social unrest mounts

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

A general strike gripped the central Tunisian town of Kasserine on Wednesday amid rising discontent over the government's failure to improve living conditions three years after the revolution.

On Tuesday evening, dozens of protesters attacked a police post in the nearby village of Thala, witnesses told AFP.

Shops and public offices remained closed in Kasserine, while hundreds protested in the streets, shouting slogans including "The people want the fall of the regime," the rallying cry of the Arab Spring.

Tunisia's powerful UGTT trade union confederation called the strike to coincide with the anniversary of the first death in the town during the January 2011 uprising that toppled veteran strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Central Tunisia has long suffered from neglect and a lack of opportunity, which were driving factors behind the revolution that began in nearby Sidi Bouzid, when a young street vendor burnt himself alive in protest at his impoverished circumstances.

"On this day, which marks the death of the first martyr of the revolution in Kasserine, we wanted to protest against underdevelopment and the poor economic situation," trade unionist Sadok Mahmoudi told AFP.

"The political class must know that we remain committed to the goals of the revolution -- dignity, freedom and work."

On Tuesday evening, protesters threw rocks at a police post in Thala, north of Kasserine, wounding two policemen, Tunisian media reported.

The police fired tear gas to disperse the protesters, witnesses said.

Strikes and demonstrations have been on the rise in Tunisia since the autumn, fuelled by the persistent economic malaise and a political crisis triggered by the murder of an opposition politician last July.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140108/strike-protest-tunisia-town-social-unrest-mounts