Arab Spring nations in turmoil as unrest spreads across Egypt and Tunisia

Violence polarises Egypt, police fire gas in Tunisia, prisoners escape jail in Libya

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 July, 2013, 6:17am

Arab Spring nations were in turmoil yesterday as violent protests rocked Egypt and Tunisia and thousands of prisoners escaped from a Libyan prison following a wave of assassinations.

Thousands of supporters of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood stood their ground in Cairo yesterday, saying they would not leave the streets despite "massacres" by security forces who shot dozens of them dead.

Although Cairo was quiet yesterday morning, violent clashes rattled the Suez Canal city of Port Said, with a 17-year-old youth killed in fighting between the supporters and opponents of ousted president Mohammed Mursi and 29 people injured.

The violence has deeply polarised Egypt, with its secular and liberal elite so far showing little sympathy for the Brotherhood or reservations about the return to power of a military that ruled for 60 years before the 2011 uprising.

However, in one of the first signs of doubt from within the interim cabinet installed after the military takeover, Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Ziad Bahaa El-Din said the government must not copy the "oppressive and exclusionary policies" of its foes.

In Tunisia, police fired tear gas to disperse violent protests in the southern town of Sidi Bouzid, cradle of the country's revolution and hometown of slain secular opposition figure Mohamed Brahmi, witnesses said.

In a bid to stave off unrest amid intensifying protests, secular coalition partners of Tunisia's ruling Islamist party held talks to reach a new power-sharing deal.

The mass escape of Libyan prisoners from the Kwefiya prison outside Benghazi followed marches in several Libyan cities denouncing the killing of a critic of the Muslim Brotherhood, Abdul-Salam al-Musmary, who was shot dead on Friday.