Tunisia probe says ex-president ordered demo air strikes

AFP , Wednesday 13 Apr 2011

Tunisian investigation commission says that former President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali authorized an air strike against protesters on a city involved in an uprising

Tunisian president Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali ordered air strikes on a city involved in an uprising that led to his toppling in January, according to an investigator quoted in media Wednesday.

Ben Ali ordered strikes on the Ezzouhour area of the western city of Kasserine days before he quit on January 14 after weeks of protests, the head of a commission probing abuses during the revolt said in various reports.

The "intention was clearly to break the region and bring its people to their knees through collective and premeditated murder," commission head Taoufik Bouderbala was quoted as saying.

The order came days before Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia, ending 23 years in power, and was never carried out. The army had reportedly refused some orders from Ben Ali to crack down on protesters.

His security forces were particularly hard on Ezzouhour during the uprising, with his security forces accused of opening fire at crowds of demonstrators who had been demanding Ben Ali step down. Bouderbala said 23 people were killed in the city.

"The inquiry has come to the conclusion that weapons were used with the intention of killing ... the majority of the wounds were at the level of the head and the heart," Bouderbala said.

He said the gunmen were elite forces from the public order brigades but there were "difficulties" in identifying them.

More than 200 people were killed during the uprising that brought down Ben Ali and unleashed a wave of similar revolts across the Arab world that are still continuing.
Rights groups have said those responsible for the killings should be held accountable.

The Tunisian authority that replaced the authoritarian Ben Ali regime has asked Saudi Arabia to extradite him, including over the deadly crackdown, and his wife Leila Trabelsi, also accused of corruption.


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