A young protester has been killed after a police vehicle “accidentally” ran him over outside an oil and gas installation in south Tunisia, the country’s Health Ministry says.
The deadly incident took place at the El Kamour oil and gas pumping station in the Tataouine region, which is located around 500 kilometers (300 miles) south of the capital Tunis.
“The Health Ministry announces the accidental death of a young man, (run over) by the national guard (vehicle). He was a protester,” media outlets quoted sources within the ministry as saying.
This came after security forces fired tear gas at protesters as they tried to storm the installation.
A series of violent clashes also erupted on Monday morning outside the Tataouine governor’s office after local residents staged a protest in support of the El Kamour sit-in. Footage shared on social media showed at least one demonstrator who was injured at the town hospital.
The latest escalation comes in defiance of government efforts to protect oil and gas fields with troops.
Late Sunday, the Tunisian Defense Ministry in a statement warned that the military would resort to force against anyone who tried to enter the grounds of these installations.
The statement further warned “all citizens of legal proceedings in the case of clashes with military or security units” and of possible casualties in “the case of a gradual escalation of use of force.”
In addition, ministry spokesman, Belhassen Oueslati, told a Tunisian radio channel on Monday that “one must understand that attempting to enter by force an installation protected by the army… is not a peaceful act… It requires a reaction.”
Also on Saturday, soldiers fired warning shots at protesters in El Kamour.
Earlier this month, President Beji Caid Essebsi said that the army would protect key economic installations from being disrupted by protests over social and labor issues.
Angry demonstrators have been camping outside El Kamour station for around a month, They have blocked truck access to the site to demand they be given a share of local resources and priority in jobs in the sector.
Tunisia is only a small oil producer with an output of about 44,000 barrels per day nationwide. But weeks of protests are putting pressure on Prime Minister Youssef Chahed at a time that his government seeks to undertake key economic and austerity reforms demanded by international lenders.
In January 2016, the North African country was rocked by some of the worst social unrest since the 2011 revolution that toppled former dictator, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Six years after an uprising ousted Ben Ali, Tunisia is praised as a model of transition. But it still struggles to address demands for jobs and opportunities in marginalized regions.