January 15, 2011 / 1:45 PM / 9 years ago

Spate of drive-by shootings in Tunisian capital

TUNIS (Reuters) - Squads of men in civilian clothes are driving through the Tunisian capital at high speed shooting randomly at buildings and people, Reuters reporters who witnessed the shootings said on Saturday.

It was not clear who they were but a senior military source, who did not want to be identified, told Reuters that people affiliated to former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali were fanning lawlessness in the country.

Soldiers and tanks were stationed in the centre of Tunis to try to restore order after a night of chaos and looting following Ben Ali’s ouster and flight to Saudi Arabia.

In one incident on Saturday, a Reuters reporter was driving through the Bardo district, about 10 km (six miles) from the city centre, when a pick-up truck overtook at high speed.

Four men in civilian clothes could be seen inside the vehicle, two of them wearing baseball caps.

The reporter said he saw the barrel of a pistol sticking out of the window of the pick-up and moments later heard loud gunshots coming from the vehicle. He did not see if anyone was hit.

In another incident on Friday night, a Reuters reporter in the Ettadamen suburb of Tunis said four cars drove along the street, the occupants firing through the windows at people and buildings.

The military source told Reuters: “Ben Ali’s security is behind what is happening.”

Tunisian analyst Taoufik Ayachi echoed his view. “It is certain the presidential police are behind all this,” he said. “They still hope to regain power.”

“They are trying to create a state of disorder. Yesterday there was information circulating that they were going to carry out a coup d’etat but the large military presence prevented it.”

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