Tunisia orders army to protect businesses amid protests

Tunisia's president has taken the unusual step of ordering the army to protect businesses struggling because of weeks of protests over unemployment and corruption.

President Beji Caid Essebsi announced Wednesday in Tunis that "the state must protect the people's resources" after protests in Tunisia's impoverished inland provinces in recent weeks. Sit-ins and other demonstrations have blocked roads and notably led to a halt in production at oil and phosphate facilities.

He said this "grave but necessary decision" was made at a top-level government security meeting. Essebsi insisted on the people's freedom to demonstrate but said it must be "within the framework of the law."

After extremist attacks and political violence in recent years, Tunisia is in a prolonged state of emergency that allows authorities to take exceptional measures such as sending in the army to assure security.