Tunisia-Libya border reopens after violent protest

TUNISIA - Ras Jadir, the main border crossing between Libya and Tunisia, reopened on Thursday after violent protests on the Tunisian side against Tripoli's decision to close it for security reasons.

Lorries were crossing between the countries, an AFP journalist reported, three days after Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali flew to Tripoli following clashes in the Tunisian town of Ben Guerdane, 30 kilometres (19 miles) from Ras Jdir.

Despite the border reopening, Ben Guerdane residents observed a general strike on Thursday to demand investment and jobs, with only chemists, hospitals and bakeries remaining open.

More than 300 people, most of them traders angry at the damage caused to their business, had demonstrated against the closure. Protesters threw rocks at security forces, who fired tear gas in response.

Tripoli decided to close the Ras Jdir crossing point on December 4, after complaints by Libyans about being attacked in Tunisia. It later ordered the closure of its land borders with Chad, Niger, Sudan and Algeria.

The Libyan conflict that ousted Moammer Kadhafi in 2011 saw arms and fighters scattered across the region, notably to Mali, where Islamist militants have occupied the north, while southern Libya has also been plagued by unrest.

Unemployment and tough living conditions in Tunisia, driving factors behind the uprising there two years ago that touched off the Arab Spring, continue to fuel social discontent, with strikes and protests often degenerating into violence.

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