Jan 15, 2011

Tunisian President Ben Ali fled away to S. Arabia

Tunisia's President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali has stepped down and fled away to Saudi Arabia amid widespread protests on the streets of the capital Tunis of the country on Friday January 14, 2011. 

Thousands of people had been staging demonstrations against the President of the North-African country protesting economic crises, higher unemployment rate, and  food and fuel prices upsurge, sources said.

However, Mr. Ben Ali had to leave the power after 23 years in power in a state of emergency in the country in the face month-long protest. He took shelter in Saudi Arabia with his whole family after France defied to give shelter for Mr. Ali. 

Mr. Ali took all out ways to keep hold of power. He also smashed his cabinet earlier to restore law and order situation in the country and tried to reconcile with the protesters.   

In a televised address, Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi said he would be taking over.

A state of emergency was declared earlier, as rumbling nationwide protests over economic woes snowballed into anti-government demonstrations.

Earlier, police fired tear gas as thousands of protesters gathered outside the interior ministry.

Doctors say that 13 people were killed in overnight clashes in Tunis, and there are unconfirmed reports that five people have been killed in protests on Thursday (January 13, 2011) outside the capital.

Troops have surrounded the country's main international airport, Tunis Carthage, and the country's air space has been closed.

Ghannouchi, 69, a former finance minister who has been prime minister since 1999, will serve as interim president.

In an address on state television, he promised to "respect the law and to carry out the political, economic and social reforms that have been announced".

The BBC's Arab affairs analyst Magdi Abdelhadi says Ben Ali's demise will go down in history as the day that an Arab population rose and brought down a head of state they regarded as a dictator.

He says it may rattle the entire post-colonial order in North Africa and the wider Arab world.

Earlier, Ben Ali--who had said in a TV address on Thursday night that he would relinquish power in 2014--said he was dismissing the government and dissolving parliament, and that new elections would be held within six months.

The state of emergency decree bans more than three people from gathering together in the open, and imposes a night-time curfew. Security forces have been authorised to open fire on people not obeying their orders.

Human rights groups say dozens of people have died in recent weeks as unrest has swept the country and security forces have cracked down on the protests.

The protests started after an unemployed graduate set himself on fire when police tried to prevent him from selling vegetables without a permit. He died a few weeks later.

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