Tunisia: New government fires top police officials


Tunisia's new government fired dozens of police officials — all allies of the deposed president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali — on Wednesday in an effort to take back control of the country's security forces.

Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi's interim administration also appointed a top military officer to head up the national security service and named new chiefs for seven key regions in the country, Agence France-Presse reported.

The government also approved wage rises for the country's beleaguered police service.

The news came a day after Tunisian security forces arrested the country's former Interior Minister Rafik Belhaj Kacem, and took him into custody to be questioned.

"Kacem will spend a renewable period of three days under arrest for interrogation," Tunisia's incumbent Interior Minister Farhat Rajhi told the country's privately owned Hannibal TV.

Kacem led efforts to crush the revolution, which sought an end to the 23-year-long authoritarian rule of ousted Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The head of Tunisia's presidential guard Ali Seriati and 50 others were also arrested by the army Tuesday over accusations of plans to foment social unrest.

"An investigation has been launched against the head of the presidential guard and a group of his accomplices for plotting against the security of the state," Press TV reported, quoting the official TAP news agency.

Admiral Ahmed Chabir, the new director of national security, has orders to purge stalwarts of Ben Ali's regime from key police and military positions, according to AFP.

He must also reinstall to their posts thousands of police officers who deserted the streets as the popular uprising swept Ben Ali from power.

Protesters blame the police for brutal and sometimes deadly attacks on demonstrators during the uprising — the United Nations puts the death toll at 219.

Rajhi, the interior minister, noted that 42 senior security officials, including the heads of general security and presidential security, had been replaced following the violent protests that led to the ouster of Ben Ali, 74.