Chaos after Tunisian leader flees

2011-01-15 16:38

Tunisia was rattled by further ­unrest early yesterday even after President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali had fled the country.

Witnesses said the central train station in the capital, Tunis, was on fire overnight despite a nationwide curfew.

Supermarkets and residential buildings had also been set ablaze or looted and one hospital was attacked, reports said.

Hundreds of European holidaymakers fled the country as the violence flared up.

German tour operators cancelled all flights to Tunisia due to an imposed state of emergency.

Ben Ali left Tunisia on Friday ­after a month of popular revolt that claimed dozens of lives. He had earlier fired his government and announced early elections. His plane landed in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah after it was reportedly denied leave to land in France.

Tunisia’s Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, who has taken over as president, described the situation as complete security chaos. He called on residents to join forces to protect their belongings.

Ghannouchi was to serve as interim president until new elections were held. He was to meet with leaders of Tunisia’s political parties, and two opposition leaders had ­already indicated their willingness to co-operate with the interim ­government.

Ben Ali’s return to Tunisia was “impossible”, Ghannouchi added.

It was not clear whether Ben Ali was forced to leave or had agreed to leave of his own accord.

His departure was met internationally with calls for Tunisians to form a new government in as peaceful a manner as possible.

Ben Ali had been president of the north African country since 1987, replacing Habib Bourguiba when he was deposed in a coup.

His departure was prompted by anti-government demonstrations that were brutally repressed by the police. More than 60 protesters were killed since mid-December, most shot dead by police firing on crowds with live bullets.

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