BREAKINGIsrael boosts troops and tanks near the Gaza Strip
Looters roam suburbs of Tunis
Tunisian army called in to restore order as looters and armed gangs exploit prevailing security vacuum.
15 Jan 2011
Police officers are hard pressed to restore order in the capital Tunis and other cities [AFP]
A security vacuum left by the departure of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the Tunisian president, is being exploited by looters and violent gangs, witnesses say.
Residents in several parts of the Tunisian capital, Tunis, said on Saturday that groups were prowling through neighbourhoods setting fire to buildings and attacking people and property, with no police in sight.
Occasional gunshots could be heard in the centre of Tunis as well as the sound of tear-gas grenades being fired, while helicopters patrolled overhead and acrid smoke hung in the air, Reuters news agency reported.
Several witnesses in Denden, 19km from Tunis, said soldiers were dropped by helicopter to try to restore security.
Witnesses told Al Jazeera that masked special forces they suspected of being affiliated to the toppled government, or foreign militias imported by the leadership before exiting the country, were cracking down on looters.
They said that the army published help phone lines for citizens to call to report pillaging and security emergencies.
Martial law
In a dramatic climax to weeks of violent protests against his rule, Ben Ali, who ruled Tunisia for more than 23 years, was pushed out on Friday and Mohamed Ghannouchi, the prime minister, took over as caretaker president.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Ghannouchi said that everything was being done to restore order.
“Gangs are indulging in looting, wreaking havoc and destruction and spreading fear among citizens. We call on Arab states to help pacify the situation in Tunisia,” he said.
“Police are patrolling the streets to restore security and protect public property. Martial law is in effect and the army is deployed in critical and strategic areas.
“We aim now to get things back to normal and restore security.”
In working-class suburbs of Tunis, hundreds of residents lined the streets with metal bars and knives trying to ward off looters.
Sources told Al Jazera that there were calls in Tunisia to form civil squads to defend quarters, combat looting and take control of security because the army was only stationed in certain areas.
“There is a terrible state of fear. May God bring us peace,” one woman, Lilia Sfaxi, told Reuters. “We cannot live any more like this in total fear.”
Profile: Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
Tunisian president flees amid a wave of deadly social protests in a dramatic end to his 23 years in power.
15 Jan 2011
Pictures: Tunisia’s uprising
Rioting sparked by suicide attempt quickly spread in north African nation, culminating in its president’s hasty exit.
23 Jan 2011
World responds to Tunisia uprising
After notable silence by many, world leaders condemn violence against protesters and call for free and fair elections.
15 Jan 2011
Constitutional debate
Some lawyers argue the prime minister’s assumption of presidential powers evades the Tunisian constitution.
14 Jan 2011
Muslims mark Eid with masks and prayers amid COVID and conflict
Separate blasts kill 11 Afghan civilians on first day of truce
Alibaba reports first quarterly loss since going public
George Floyd: Officers allege coercion, media leaks
Israel masses forces near Gaza as air strikes continue
Celebrities weigh in on Israel-Palestine conflict
What is ‘black fungus’ infection found in India’s COVID patients?
What led to the most recent Israel-Palestine escalation?
Our Channels
Our Network
Follow Al Jazeera English:
© 2021 Al Jazeera Media Network
You rely on Al Jazeera for truth and transparency
We understand that your online privacy is very important and consenting to our collection of some personal information takes great trust. We ask for this consent because it allows Al Jazeera to provide an experience that truly gives a voice to the voiceless.
You have the option to decline the cookies we automatically place on your browser but allowing Al Jazeera and our trusted partners to use cookies or similar technologies helps us improve our content and offerings to you. You can change your privacy preferences at any time by selecting ‘Cookie preferences’ at the bottom of your screen. To learn more, please view our Cookie Policy.
Dismiss Cookie preferences