Tank on Tunis street
Photo: Reuters
Plane used by Ben Ali to flee Tunisia
Photo: AP

Prison fire amid Tunisian unrest kills dozens

At least 42 people burned to death or shot during attempt to escape Monastir prison; fires break out in two other jails. Constitutional authority: Presidential elections within 60 days

At least 42 people were killed Saturday in a fire at a prison in the Mediterranean coastal resort of Monastir as unrest sweeps Tunisia after its longtime president was forced out by protests.


Some of the victims were burned to death or died of smoke inhalation, while others were shot to death while trying to escape, local media reported.


Massive street protests over corruption and unemployment forced President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to flee the country Friday night after 23 years of iron-fisted rule. In the last 24 hours, unrest, looting and arson have erupted.


According to reports, some inmates managed to escape the prison.


Violent incidents were reported in a number of other prisons across Tunisia. Local news outlets said dozens of people were killed in a prison in the southern part of the country.


"I see the prison going up in flames. There are dozens of dead people. Dozens of prisoners managed to escape," an eyewitness told Reuters.


Home of Ben Ali's brother-in-law after ransacking (Photo: AP)


According to some reports, dozens of people were killed during an attempt to escape from a prison in Mahdia, 140 km (85 miles) south of Tunis. Another fire reportedly broke out in another prison in northern Tunisia.


Meanwhile, Tunisia's constitutional authority called for presidential elections within 60 days.


The authority also said Saturday that under the constitution the speaker of parliament should be the interim president.


Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi said on Friday he was taking over as interim president after Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia following weeks of protests over poverty, unemployment and repression.


On Saturday Ghannouchi told a state-owned television station that security forces and civilians must work to "restore order and prevent looting and theft." He said Tunisia was rebuilding itself as a democratic country that respects civil rights.


The Associated Press reported of sporadic gunfire in the capital of Tunis on Saturday. Smoke billowed over a giant supermarket outside the capital as looters torched and emptied it. The army fired warning shots to scare them away, to little avail, according to the news agency.


AP, Reuters contributed to the report



פרסום ראשון: 01.15.11, 15:14
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