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Rights Group Says Eight Dead In New Clashes In Tunisia

An international rights group says eight protesters were killed in overnight clashes with security forces around the Tunisian capital, Tunis.

The clashes broke out in defiance of the curfew with troops deployed into the capital as the regime of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali struggled to deal with the worst unrest in the country in more than 20 years.

The Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) said the crackdown amounted to an "ongoing massacre."

FIDH President Souhayr Belhassen said the latest deaths bring the total to 66 deaths since the weekend. The government has put the death toll at 21.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navy Pillay meanwhile called on Tunisian authorities to stop the use of what she called "excessive measures."

"We are trying to verify the number [of those] killed," Pillay said. "Human rights organizations report almost 40 killed before and after this [overnight clashes]. So, clearly, that is a result of some of the excessive measures used, such as snipers, the indiscriminate killing of peaceful protesters."

Reports say several hundred people tried to march in the capital again on January 13, after the lifting of the curfew, but were dispersed when troops fired tear gas.

compiled from agency reports