Unable to find a job after university, Muhammad Bouazizi, moved to a big city and sold vegetables on the streets. But police confiscated his unlicensed cart, and slapped and insulted him. The 26-year-old returned to his home town, Sidi Bouzid, and on 17 December stood in its main square, doused himself in petrol and set himself on fire. He died of his injuries on 4 January.
1736: Two sources close to the government confirm to the AFP news agency that President Ben Ali has left Tunisia.
1735: Air France has temporarily suspended all flights to Tunis due to the state of emergency and the closure of air space.
1733: Sources tell al-Jazeera TV that President Ben Ali has left the country and that the army is in control.
1732: Saudi-based al-Arabiya TV reports that Tunisian Parliamentary Speaker Fouad Mbazaa will announce shortly that he is taking over control of the country from the president.
1724: Sources tell al-Jazeera TV that the Tunisian security forces have arrested members of Trabelsi family at an airport. Many of the protesters have expressed their anger at the power, wealth and influence of the extended family of President Ben Ali’s second wife, Leila Trabelsi. “No, no to the Trabelsis who looted the budget,” has been a popular slogan. Many refer to the president’s relations simply as “The Family” or “The Mafia”, according to the New York Times.
1719: Mahmoud Ben Romdhane of the opposition Renewal Movement tells BBC World News: “At this moment, according to the latest information that I have, the president it no longer in power and a coup has happened. If this information is true, the answer is clear. He will no longer have the power to decide to accept or refuse [the demands for him to step down].”
1705: State television says a major announcement to the Tunisian people is to be made soon, according to the Reuters news agency.
1654: The Tunisian authorities have released Hamma Hammami, the leader of the banned Tunisian Workers’ Communist Party (POCT), three days after arresting him, his party tells the AFP news agency.
1646: A source at Tunis Carthage airport tells the AFP news agency that the army has taken control there and that the country’s airspace has been shut down.
1628: BBC Monitoring reports that emotions ran high in one debate on Tunisian TV7, in which one of the pundits screamed: “People are being shot dead with live ammunition. How can you praise the president?” He then turned to the camera and said: “Ben Ali, as you know him, is dead.” The debate was immediately cut short. Shortly after, a TV technician sat in the studio, next to the newsreader, and went on apologise to the public and condemn his own channel’s coverage of events, saying they were government employees and they were doing what they had been asked to do.
1626: The full announcement by state television was as follows: “The president has given orders to Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi to create a new government. Following acts of violence, it has been decided to introduce a state of emergency in the country to protect Tunisian citizens. This state of emergency means that any gathering of more than three people is forbidden, that arms will be used by security forces in cases where a suspect does not stop when asked to do so by the police and thirdly, a curfew [is imposed] from 1700 this evening until 0700 in the morning for an indefinite period.”
1617: The government has also warned that “arms will be used” if the orders of the security forces are not obeyed.
1615: Under the terms of the state of emergency, the government has banned any meetings outside of more than three people, according to state television. There will also be a nationwide curfew from 1700 (1600 GMT) until 0700 (0600 GMT).
1604: A state of emergency has been declared “to protect the Tunisian people and their properties on all the soil of the Tunisian Republic”, Tunisian TV7 reports. The government has declared a state of emergency and banned public meetings
1551: UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville says it is ready to help investigate the reports that more than 60 protesters have been shot dead by the security forces in the past week. “We’ve made it clear we believe there needs to be investigations. A large number of people have been killed and there are very serious allegations of the manner of these killings,” he tells reporters in Geneva.
1544: There have been violent clashes between protesters and the police in the centre of Tunis, according to the AFP news agency.
1523: Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi says he has been tasked with forming a new administration.
1521: President Ben Ali has dismissed the government and called legislative elections within six months, state television reports.
1518: The government has put the death toll at 23, but the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights said on Thursday that it had the names of 66 people killed.
1513: Asked about last night’s reported fatalities, a medical source tells AFP: “The bodies of three people struck with bullets were taken to the hospital at Kram, close to Tunis, and 10 others have been brought to Charles Nicolle hospital in Tunis.”
1502: Asked about last night’s reported fatalities, a medical source tells AFP: “The bodies of three people struck with bullets were taken to the hospital at Kram, close to Tunis, and 10 others have been brought to Charles Nicolle hospital in Tunis.”
1454: Thirteen civilians were shot dead by the security forces in Tunis and its suburbs in clashes on Thursday, medical sources tell the AFP news agency. Reuters meanwhile says 12 died – 10 in the capital and two in the coastal town of Ras Jebel. Tunisian officials have not yet commented. It is not clear if the deaths came after President Ben Ali ordered police to stop using lethal force against demonstrators.
1447: Dubai-based al-Arabiya TV says protesters are trying to “storm” the Central Bank in Tunis. The bank is on Avenue Mohamed V, to the north of the interior ministry.
1435: Emen Binmluka, a 21-year-old protester, tells Reuters: “A bus came with police in it and they started firing tear gas. Women, children and everyone fled.”
1426: Protesters have been sent fleeing down Bourguiba Avenue by the volleys of tear gas fired by riot police outside the interior ministry. The Reuters news agency say a crowd of youths threw stones at police after they fired volleys of tear gas
1426: Protesters have been sent fleeing down Bourguiba Avenue by the volleys of tear gas fired by riot police outside the interior ministry. The Reuters news agency say a crowd of youths have begun retaliating by throwing stones.
1408: Tunisia’s ambassador to the UN’s cultural organisation, Unesco, has resigned in protest at the government’s handling of the unrest, according to a letter seen by the AFP news agency. Mezri Haddad told the president that he had asked him to “stop the bloodbath by disarming the police”. “I told you that the protesters are not against you but against the oligarchy to which you have fallen hostage and which has plundered the country’s riches without cease,” he added.
1402: A reporter for the Reuters news agency says gunshots have been heard near the interior ministry building. President Ben Ali said on Thursday that live ammunition would not be fired at protesters.
1355: Tear-gas canisters have been fired by the security forces at protesters outside the interior ministry, forcing many to flee. The Associated Press reports that the move came after people climbed on top of the ministry’s roof. The demonstrator sare surrounded by dozens of police and soldiers.
1334: Jalloul Azzouna, the secretary-general of the League of Writers, a non-official body, tells reporters at the Tunis protest that it is demanding “a general amnesty and the release of hundreds of political prisoners whose existence is denied by the regime”.
1321: It was the death of a young unemployed graduate which triggered the protests. Unable to find a job after university, Muhammad Bouazizi, moved to a big city and sold vegetables on the streets. But police confiscated his unlicensed cart, and slapped and insulted him. The 26-year-old returned to his home town, Sidi Bouzid, and on 17 December stood in its main square, doused himself in petrol and set himself on fire. He died of his injuries on 4 January.
1313: Demonstrations are also being held in other towns, including Sidi Bouzid, where the unrest began a month ago over unemployment and food prices. People there are demanding the president resign. “We have come out in our thousands to say: ‘Ben Ali, go away!'” trade union activist Sliman Rouissi tells the Reuters news agency.
1309: Radia Nasraoui, a lawyer at the protest in central Tunis, tells the Reuters news agency: “We want Ben Ali to go. All we’ve known since he’s been in power has been misery, prisons, torture, repression and unfair trials. I’m a lawyer. I’ve been assaulted. I see traces of torture every time I meet people in Tunisian prisons. There are only unfair trials. People are sentenced to dozens of years for political opinions. People have died under torture in the interior ministry.” Her husband, Workers’ Communist Party leader Hamma Hammami, was arrested on Wednesday and has not been heard of since.
1303: The BBC’s Aidan Lewis says a new generation of activists has been credited with driving the Tunisian protest movement forward by using the internet. This has happened despite increasingly strict controls by a government that, even before the demonstrations, was regarded as unusually zealous in its online censorship. A steady flow of protest videos, tweets, and political manifestos has continued to make its way onto the web in a variety of languages: Arabic, the Darija Tunisian dialect, French and English.
1256: Tunisian medical officials tell the Associated Press that 13 people have died in new unrest in the country.
1137: The AFP news agency reports that demonstrations are also taking place in other towns across the country.
1119: The march was organised by Tunisia’s only legal trade union, which also called a symbolic two-hour strike in the capital on Friday.
1113: A Reuters news agency reporter says the protesters are chanting “Ben Ali, leave!” and “Ben Ali, thank you but that’s enough!”
1108: The BBC’s Adam Mynott in Tunis says: I have been told there are 6,000 or 7,000 people here. The rally is surrounded by dozens of police and soldiers, but crucially they have not so far intervened as they have in recent weeks.
1106: After President Ben Ali announced on Thursday night that he would not seek an extension to his term of office and other measures to appease protesters some people celebrated on the streets of Tunis. It is not clear if this was a spontaneous act or a celebration arranged by the followers of the president. However, correspondents say his promise to stop the security forces firing live ammunition at protesters, to cut the price of basic foodstuffs and free up the media in Tunisia do go some way to meet the concerns of protesters.
1101: In a nationwide address on Thursday, the president said he would not stand for re-election in 2014 and announced cuts in the prices of basic foods. Foreign Minister Kamel Morjane has since spoken of a national unity government being possible – as well as early parliamentary elections. The protests erupted a month ago over economic problems and the lack of basic freedoms.
1100: There have been renewed protests against the government in Tunisia. Thousands of people joined a march in the capital, Tunis, demanding that President Ben Ali resign immediately. The protesters went to the interior ministry, which is blamed for the deaths of at least 23 people in recent demonstrations. Human rights groups say the number killed is more than twice that official figure.