Middle East

Tunisian Jewish school burned as anti-austerity riots rage elsewhere

A Jewish school on a Tunisian island was attacked late on Tuesday as police battled violent unrest elsewhere in the country, arresting more than 200 people, witnesses and the interior ministry said.

Petrol bombs thrown at the school on the tourist resort island of Djerba, home to an ancient Jewish community, caused some damage but no injuries, the head of the local Jewish community, Perez Trabelsi, told the Reuters news agency on Wednesday.

There were no protests in Djerba but locals said the attackers had exploited the fact that there was reduced security as police were busy combating anti-government protests elsewhere in the North African state.

"Unknown people took the opportunity of the protests and threw Molotov cocktails into the lobby of a Jewish religious school in Djerba," Trabelsi said.

At the time of the attack, violent clashes were raging in some 20 Tunisian cities as people protested against rising prices and new taxes imposed by on 1 January.

About 50 policemen were wounded in the clashes, the interior ministry said.

"Last night criminals looted and burned security centres, 45 police cars were torched and some government offices were attacked," he said.

"They blocked roads and carried out robberies in many cities… Obviously, these are not protests, but theft and damage to public and private property."

Mainly Muslim Tunisia has a Jewish minority of fewer than 1,800 people.

Jews have lived in Tunisia for more than 2,000 years and Djerba is home to Africa's oldest synagogue, El Ghriba, which was hit by al Qaeda-linked militants in 2002 in a truck bomb attack that killed 21 people including Western tourists.

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