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Tunisian man killed by police as poverty protests turn deadly

Young protester dies after being accidentally hit by vehicle during clashes in El Kamour, hours after clashes reported in Vana
Tunisia's prime minister this month deployed troops to counter the protests (AFP)

A young protester was killed on Monday after a police vehicle accidentally ran him over in south Tunisia after weeks of social unrest, the health ministry said.

The protester died in clashes in El Kamour, local media reports said.

"The health ministry announces the accidental death of a young man, (run over) by the national guard. He was a protester," the ministry told AFP.

State-run Tatatouine Radio said youths had burned out two local police stations during the clashes and police had withdrawn from the town. Images from the town showed burned out vehicles in the street and charred walls of police offices.

The death comes hours after security forces fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters trying to take over a gas pumping station, as weeks of unrest over jobs and control of resources in the country's southern provinces escalated into violence.
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Protesters briefly forced the closure of the Vana pumping station, one of several oil and gas stations affected over the weekend, after the army allowed an engineer to shut it to avoid a confrontation.

The defence ministry warned on Sunday it would use force to protect and retake southern oil and gas facilities, and clashes broke out at Vana on Monday when the military took back control to restart the pump, two witnesses said.

Protesters pressing demands for jobs and a share of the country's energy wealth forced the closure of two oil and gas pumping stations, where Italy's ENI SpA, Austria's OMV AG and France's Perenco operate, and where the prime minister, Youssef Chahed, had already deployed troops.

Tunisia is a small oil producer with an output of about 44,000 barrels per day.

But the closures represent a clear challenge to the authority of Chahed's government as it tries to enact economic reforms demanded by international lenders and consolidate Tunisia's transition to democracy six years after an uprising ended the autocratic regime of Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.

"The defence ministry warns citizens of the risk of prosecution following altercations with military units, and bodily harm resulting from aggression or violations accessing facilities under their control," it said late on Sunday. 

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