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Tunisian protests escalate, reflecting widespread discontent

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Hassene Dridi/AP Photo

(Read caption) People chant during a demonstration in Tunis, Tunisia, against high prices and unemployment, Saturday Jan.8.

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Escalating unrest in Tunisia left 14 dead over the weekend, the Tunisian government said Sunday, a sign that protests that began last month show no signs of letting up.

The protests erupted amid anger over high unemployment, after a jobless, down-on-his-luck young Tunisian man set himself on fire in mid-December.

But the unrest has since spread to a wide cross-section of Tunisian society, reflecting broader discontent with inequality and autocratic leaders perceived as corrupt figures who live high on the hog while blocking free expression by average Tunisians (see map showing protest locations). The pro-Wikileaks hacker group "Anonymous" has even joined the fray, launching cyber attacks on the Tunisian government.

Last weekend also saw violent protests over high food prices in neighboring Algeria.

The Tunisian government reported eight killed since Saturday night in clashes with police in two towns near the Algerian border, four killed in the town of Rgeb, and two more killed in Kasserine province, according to Reuters.

Rioters attacked government offices with gas bombs and other weapons, injuring several police officers, and police only fired in self-defense, state media reported.

Al Jazeera broadcast unverified video footage claiming to be from Saturday night's violence and its aftermath. Tunisia is currently under a government-ordered media blackout, Al Jazeera reported.

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