TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) – Tunisia’s president declared a state of emergency Friday and announced that he would fire his government as thousands of protesters mobbed the capital to demand his ouster. Tunisian air space was closed, gunfire rang out in Tunis, and police beat any protesters they could grab.
President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was facing his toughest challenge yet in 23 years of repressive rule after weeks of anti-government riots across the North African nation.
Protesters thronged the capital, fueled by pent-up anger at high unemployment and at a leadership many see as controlling and corrupt. Marching through the city, they demanded Ben Ali’s resignation and some even climbed onto the roof of the Interior Ministry — a symbol of his iron-fisted regime.
Many shouted “Ben Ali, out!” and “Ben Ali, assassin!” Another poster read “We won’t forget,” a reference to the rioters killed, many by police bullets.
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