Tunis, Jan 12 (Agencies): A wave of violent unrest perturbed the capital as police fired into the air to disperse a crowd ransacking buildings in a Tunis suburb as a mark of protest demanding jobs and better living conditions.

However, the authorities say the protests have been hijacked by a minority of violent extremists armed with petrol bombs and clubs.

According to a reporter, he saw hundreds of youths, who had earlier blocked roads with burning tyres and hurled stones at police, try to attack a local Government building.

''We are not afraid, we are not afraid, we are afraid only of God,'' the crowds chanted.
Officials said the civilian deaths numbering 23—almost all of them in clashes in provincial towns at the weekend—came about when police fired on rioters in self-defence.

Reports of the clashes in Tunis emerged minutes after the Government raised the death toll from the unrest by three but dismissed human rights groups' estimates of a higher number. The current unrest is Tunisia's worst in decades.

Until Tuesday evening there had been no reports of major new clashes after the Army was deployed in the most restive towns, schools and universities were shut indefinitely and police with loudhailers ordered people in at least one town not to gather in the streets.