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Tunisian forces clash with gunmen

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Clashes between Tunisian forces and gunmen lasted overnight, report says
  • The unrest happened in central Tunisia
  • Tunisian forces reportedly have the gunmen surrounded

(CNN) -- Tunisian forces clashed with unidentified gunmen in central Tunisia overnight, and the "intensive shooting" lasted until early Saturday, the country's state-run media reported. The military currently has the gunmen surrounded, and is sweeping the area, TAP reported.

The clashes happened in the remote village of Douz in the Kebili region, about 300 miles (500 km) south of the capital, Tunis, according to the state-run media report. The number of casualties was unclear.

On Friday, a villager discovered gunmen had infiltrated the area in at least eight vehicles without registration plates, loaded with "ultramodern" weapons, and he alerted the police, according to TAP. Police alerted the military which engaged the gunmen, the report said.

In January, protesters in Tunisia forced out longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in a popular revolt that triggered unrest across North Africa and the Middle East. An interim government came to power in Tunisia a short time later.

The revolution was sparked by protests in December after the self-immolation of a fruit vendor whose cart had been seized by police. The vendor's fiery suicide touched off a firestorm among Tunisians fed up with corruption, high unemployment and escalating food prices. The revolt that followed left at least 300 people dead and 700 wounded, a United Nations human rights expert recently said.