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Official: 48 Tunisian security forces hurt in clash with protesters on tourist island

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 8:54 PM EDT, Sun October 7, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: 4 of 48 injured security forces are hospitalized, a Tunisian spokesman says
  • NEW: Only 2 protesters were injured; he said police didn't use "excessive" force
  • Security forces tried to break-up a sit-in in front of a controversial waste facility

(CNN) -- Security forces and protesters clashed Saturday on a Tunisian tourist island, leading to injuries to 48 police and two protesters, state news reported.

The violence occurred in Guellala on the island of Djerba, along the Mediterranean Sea. People there had staged a sit-in on a road leading to a waste facility, the official news agency Tunis Afrique Presse (TAP) reported.

Khaled Tarrouch, spokesman for Tunisia's Interior Ministry, said on state-run Wataniya TV that about 40 demonstrators were blocking the road to the facility, which is the only one serving the area.

Talks aimed at clearing the road failed, and security forces subsequently came in and broke up the demonstration, Tarrouch said.

Later, a large group of the protesters gathered in Guellala's city center and "attacked" security forces, according to the Interior Ministry spokesman. Some citizens threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at authorities, he said.

Eight police cars were burned and 48 security force members were injured in the melee. Four of those have been hospitalized, said Tarrouch. TAP reported that police responded by using tear gas.

"The security forces were clearly targeted," he added. "There was no excessive use of force from the security forces' side."

By Saturday evening, the security situation in Guellala was "calm" and reinforcements had been dispatched to the island, Tarrouch said.

Tunisian officials had earlier met with residents angry about the waste facility. After those discussions, the government announced that it would stay open until the end of 2013.

CNN's Amir Ahmed contributed to this report.

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