Hundreds of Tunisians took to the streets of the capital Tunis on Saturday to protest against unemployment and to express support for a young man who was shot dead by police in a similar protest in a central Tunisian town.
On Friday, police had opened fire on rioting demonstrators who set police cars and buildings ablaze in a protest over unemployment in Sidi Bouzid, killing one person and wounding others.
The Interior Ministry said in a statement Saturday that the police first fired warning shots then fired on the protesters "in legitimate defense" in the unrest Friday in the town of Menzel Bouzayane. The statement said one protester was killed and two wounded. It said law enforcement officers were also injured, with two in comas.
Local union leader Mohamed Fadhel told The Associated Press by telephone that 18-year-old protester Mohamed Ammari died after being shot in the chest, and that 10 people were injured when police opened fire.
Tunisia, a popular tourist destination, rarely sees such open clashes. The government generally keeps a firm grip on dissent and has often been accused of human rights abuses.
Tensions rooted in frustration at high unemployment, especially among young people, have been simmering and at times boiling over in the surrounding Sidi Bouzid region over the past week.
Fadhel said about 2,000 protesters gathered Friday, setting three police cars ablaze as well as the offices of the governing party and security services. Security officers took refuge in a nearby mosque.
Security forces were sent in from outside and blocked all access to the town, made a series of arrests and searched houses of protesters. The town remained cordoned off Saturday, Fadhel said.
The tensions began with a suicide attempt a week ago by a fruit and vegetable merchant whose merchandise had been seized by police in the town of Sidi Bouzid, about 165 miles (265 kilometers) south of the capital Tunis.
On Wednesday, a 24-year-old jobless protester was electrocuted after announcing he wanted to end his life and mounting a high-voltage electricity pole. On Thursday, a goverment minister came to the region to try to calm tensions, announcing presidential measures to create jobs.
The leading opposition party, the PDP, called for urgent talks between unemployed youths and officials. The party's general secretary, Maya Jribi, said in a news conference that the anger erupted because young people feel their "horizons are blocked, and because of a sense of injustice."