Tunisian police fire shots at protest in capital

AP News
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Posted: Feb 25, 2011 3:29 PM
Tunisian police fire shots at protest in capital

Tunisian police have fired warning shots and tear gas to disperse thousands of anti-government protesters in the center of the capital, as the government promised new elections by midyear.

Thousands of protesters gathered Friday in front of the Interior Ministry to call for the ouster of the interim government that has run Tunisia since the country's previous ruler was ousted and fled into exile last month.

The protesters held prayers in the middle of a major thoroughfare, and then shouted anti-government slogans.

As tensions mounted, the mainly young protesters withstood a thick cloud of tear gas to throw rocks at the ministry building on Tunis' main thoroughfare.

The scene recalled the mass protests that forced Tunisia's strongman ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to flee.

Tunisia has been relatively calm in the weeks since Ben Ali's ouster Jan. 14.

The Tunisian government pledged Friday to organize elections by mid-July, after consultations with the country's political parties.

The government statement did not specify whether these would be parliamentary or presidential elections.

The government also adopted a decree authorizing the seizure of assets belonging to Tunisia's former rulers and their families.