11 Jan 2011

Closure of schools ordered after unrest in Tunisia

8:54 am on 11 January 2011

The government Tunisia has ordered all schools and universities to be indefinitely closed following continuing violent protests.

The announcement came after students marched in the capital, Tunis, to protest against police violence.

At least 14 people were killed over the weekend in the protests which have been linked to anger over unemployment and frustrations with the ruling elite.

President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali said protesters were responsible for "terrorist acts".

He also defended the government's record in the face of continuing protests over unemployment, and promised to create more jobs.

"The events were the work of masked gangs that attacked at night government buildings and even civilians inside their homes in a terrorist act that cannot be overlooked," he said on Monday in a speech broadcast on state television.

The BBC reports the unrest has also been linked to frustrations with the president and the ruling elite.

Tighht controls

Demonstrations are rare in Tunisia, where there are tight controls aimed at preventing dissent.

The demonstrations have been going on for more than three weeks and the BBC says the closure of schools is an indication of how seriously authorities are taking them.

Tunisia gained independence from France in 1956. Mr Ben Ali came to power in 1987 and was re-elected to a five-year term in 2009.

The protests in Tunisia have coincided with similar unrest in Algeria linked to unemployment, the cost of living, and political frustrations.