International

In Tunisia: Prime Minister Takes Over; Police Beat Some Protesters

Protesters hold a banner reading "Freedoom for  the Tunisian People ", during a demonstration to call for the resignation of Tunisia's President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, in the capital, Tunis, earlier today (Jan. 14, 2011). i

Protesters hold a banner reading "Freedoom for the Tunisian People ", during a demonstration to call for the resignation of Tunisia's President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, in the capital, Tunis, earlier today (Jan. 14, 2011). Hassene Dridi/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Hassene Dridi/AP
Protesters hold a banner reading "Freedoom for  the Tunisian People ", during a demonstration to call for the resignation of Tunisia's President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, in the capital, Tunis, earlier today (Jan. 14, 2011).

Protesters hold a banner reading "Freedoom for the Tunisian People ", during a demonstration to call for the resignation of Tunisia's President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, in the capital, Tunis, earlier today (Jan. 14, 2011).

Hassene Dridi/AP

Update at 1 p.m. ET: "Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi has gone on state television to say he is assuming power in Tunisia," the Associated Press now says.

As we reported a short time ago, Al Jazerra says President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has left the country. And as we said at the beginning of the day, things have been changing fast in that African nation, which has been rocked in recent weeks by protests over the government's authoritarian ways and high unemployment.

There's a frequently updated news story here.

Update at 12:35 p.m. ET: Al Jazeera is reporting that Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali "has left [the] country and [the] army has taken control." Reuters reports that state TV is saying a "major announcement to the Tunisian people" is coming shortly.

Update at 11:30 a.m. ET: "Tunisia's official news agency says President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has declared a state of emergency as riots escalated in his North African nation," the Associated Press now reports.

Update at 10:30 a.m. ET: "Tunisia's state news agency says President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has decided to dismiss his government following massive riots," the Associated Press just reported. "The TAP news agency report also says the president plans to call early legislative elections in six months."

Update at 9:50 a.m. ET: Reuters says "12 people were killed in overnight clashes in the Tunisian capital Tunis and the northeastern town of Ras Jebel, according to accounts from two medical sources and a witness."

Update at 9:35 a.m. ET: Police are firing tear gas at protesters in Tunis and beating some of them with clubs, reporter Eleanor Beardsley just told NPR from the scene.

She was on the street just a short time ago when "all of a sudden, you hear shots ring out like 'boom, boom' cannons [it was the sound of tear gas being fired]. ... All of a sudden everyone just started running away from the tear gas. ... I was sort of in a stampede."

Eleanor Beardsley on the protests

"I couldn't see. I couldn't open my eyes. I wanted to retch," Eleanor said.

After getting back to her hotel room, she heard screams outside her window. "I looked down and the police are beating some kids with billy clubs."

Here's the audio of her report:

Our original post — "In Tunisia: President Says He'll Leave In 2014; Protesters Say Go Now":

The news from Tunisia, where young people's protests against the authoritarian government and unemployment in recent weeks have left dozens of people dead, is changing fast:

— Last night, "an unusually contrite President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali ... made sweeping pledges for political and media freedom and said he will leave the presidency, but not until his term ends in 2014," the Associated Press writes.

From Tunisia, Eleanor Beardsley speaks with Renee Montagne

— And while reporter Eleanor Beardsley said on Morning Edition that immediately after Ben Ali's announcement his supporters poured into the streets of Tunis, this morning the protests have resumed. The AP now says that "thousands of angry demonstrators marched through Tunisia's capital Friday, demanding the resignation of the country's autocratic leader a day after he appeared on TV to try to stop deadly riots that have swept the North African nation."

As NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton adds from Dakar, Senegal: "Ben Ali acknowledged it was wrong to use force against demonstrators demanding social change and political reform. ... But there's skepticism about whether his deeds will match his words."

Here is Eleanor's conversation with Morning Edition's Renee Montagne, which has some good background on what's been happening in Tunisia.

Reminder: NPR social media strategist Andy Carvin has been documenting the news from Tunisia using a curation tool called Storify. Check this post to see what he's been doing and, if you wish, to join his experiment.

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