TUNIS: About 5,000 Tunisians protested on Monday in central Sidi Bouzid city against marginalization and deteriorating conditions, two days after the deaths of 12 female rural workers in a traffic accident.
Traffic stopped and schools, hospitals and public offices were closed under a regional strike called by unions in Sidi Bouzid, the birthplace of Tunisian revolution.
The deaths of 12 women traveling to work in an inappropriate vehicle in the village of Sabbela on Saturday provoked a wave of anger among Tunisians.
Similar incidents have occurred in recent months, fueling Tunisians’ anger at the high cost of living, unemployment and decline of state services.
Protesters including women and youths in Sidi Bouzid chanted anti-government slogans.
In December, 2010, a young Tunisian vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself alight in a suicide protest over unemployment and marginalization, spreading revolt across the Arab world.
“This strike is a support for the victims of this tragedy ... we suffer in Sidi Bouzid from marginalization and very bad conditions,” said Mohamed Azhar Gamoudi, an official in the UGTT union.
Unemployment in the country stands at about 15 percent, up from 12 percent in 2010, due to weak growth and low investment.
Tunisia, since 2011, has also experienced multiple terrorist attacks that have killed dozens of members of the security forces and 59 foreign tourists.
The country has been under a state of emergency since November 2015, when a Daesh-claimed suicide bombing in Tunis killed 12 presidential guards.
On Friday, a Tunisian soldier was killed and three others were wounded in a mine blast in the restive Kasserine region, the Defense Ministry said, in an attack claimed by Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists.
The mine exploded on Mount Chambi, in Kasserine, where the army has conducted search operations since 2012 to hunt down terrorists linked both to Al-Qaeda and Daesh, the ministry said.
The area which borders Algeria — a “closed military zone” since 2014 — is considered to be a bastion of Okba Ibn Nafaa, a local affiliate of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Okba Ibn Nafaa claimed responsibility for the attack, SITE Intelligence Group reported late Friday.