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Calm returns to Tunisian flashpoint town

media A Tunisian national flag is seen while smoke rises from a burnt government buildings in Sidi Bouzid REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Calm returned Saturday to Sidi Bouzid, the birthplace of the Tunisian revolution, after an overnight curfew imposed because of violent post-election protests, police said.

“There were no incidents during the night,” a police official said.
The town’s weekly market was open, and residents were going about normal.

activities as teams worked to clean and repair public buildings vandalised during two days of unrest over the disqualification of some candidates in Tunisia’s first free elections.

Dossier: Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution

A few tanks remained stationed by the police headquarters and town hall, however, and schools remained closed.

Late Friday, Hechmi Haamadi, a businessman whose Popular Petition won in Sidi Bouzid, appealed on the town’s residents to halt the protests, echoing an appeal by the head of the Islamist Ennahda party which won Sunday’s polls.

Tension had remained high late Friday despite the curfew, as disgruntled groups were threatening further damage and the army boosted partrols in the town, an AFP correspondent reported.

The curfew was in effect from 7:00 pm Friday to 5:00 am on Saturday.

It was in Sidi Bouzid that fruit seller Mohamed Bouazizi, an unemployed university graduate, set himself on fire on December 17 last year to protest abuses under Ben Ali’s 23-year regime.

He died days later, but Bouazizi’s desperate act sparked the popular revolt that toppled Ben Ali less than a month later and ignited region-wide uprisings that have since also ousted strongmen in Cairo and Tripoli.

The four biggest groups in the assembly are:

  • Ennahda (Islamist): 90 seats;
  • Congress for the Republic (CPR): 30 seats;
  • Ettakatol (left-wing secular): 21 seats;
  • Petition for Justice and Development (coalition including Haamdi’s Popular List): 19 seats.

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