TUNIS - An overnight curfew has been declared across the central Tunisian mining region of Gafsa, in the wake of violence that began late Wednesday over job hiring, the TAP news agency reported Thursday.
The curfew was imposed from 7:00 pm to 6:00 am, according to a note from the Gafsa governor's office cited by TAP.
The violence particularly hit two towns in the region, Oum Larayes, where schools were closed on Thursday, and Mhdilla.
Police stations and the buildings of the Gafsa Phosphates Company (CPG) were ransacked and set ablaze after the publication in these two towns of the outcome of recruitment exams by the CPG, the main employer in the region.
"The situation remains very tense and we fear what will happen after the planned released of results today in Metlaoui and Redeyef," two other towns in the mining basin.
The interior ministry announced that calm had returned to Kasserine and Thala, two other towns where trouble broke out overnight on Wednesday and demonstrators clashed with police.
According to medical sources, 76 people were injured by tear gas in the two towns, where police stations and goods depots were sacked according to interior ministry spokesman Hichem Meddeb.
The demonstrators were protesting about being left out of a tribute to the "martyrs of the revolution" that last January led to the toppling of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Kasserine and Thala paid a high price in repression before the regime fell.
"This reminds us of 2008," a source in the Gafsa region said. That year, Ben Ali's regime violently repressed unrest in the phosphate mining zone, but the demonstrators held out for six months.
That trouble in Gafsa was widely seen as one of the sparks that led to the Tunisian revolution that led to the ouster of Ben Ali in January 2011.