By Associated Press - Tuesday, February 15, 2011

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisia extended a state of emergency that has been in place since the country’s longtime autocratic president was overthrown during an uprising last month, while it ended the curfew imposed during the deadly protests, the Interior Ministry said Tuesday.

The curfew was in place since Jan. 13, the day before President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia in the wake of clashes between police and protesters angry about unemployment, corruption and repression. A U.N. mission has said at least 219 people were killed in the unrest — including dozens in prison fires — while 510 were injured.

The curfew’s hours gradually have been reduced in ensuing weeks. Most recently, it prevented people from walking outside or driving from midnight until 4 a.m.

The state of emergency, declared Jan. 14, forbids any public street gathering of three people or more, though that rule rarely has been enforced. It also authorizes police and security forces to use their weapons against suspects who do not turn themselves in when ordered to do so, and against fleeing suspects who cannot be apprehended.

Life in Tunisia largely has returned to normal as a caretaker government tries to stabilize the country ahead of elections, supposed to take place later this year. Stores, markets, gas stations and schools have reopened, and people have returned to work.

The marauding gangs of suspected regime loyalists who pillaged homes and businesses in the early days of upheaval mostly have faded away, though sporadic incidents persist in some areas.

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