Tunisian troops try to disperse Sidi Bouzid protesters

Amateur video apparently shows supporters of a rival party attacking Ennahda's local headquarters

Tunisian troops have fired in the air to disperse hundreds of protesters in the town of Sidi Bouzid, reports say.

Violent protests erupted in the central town on Thursday after the results of the country's first democratic elections in decades were announced.

The protests flared after candidate lists of a party contesting the elections were disqualified because of alleged financial irregularities.

Islamist party Ennahda, which won the poll, is holding coalition talks.

The BBC's Chloe Arnold, in North Africa, says the protests have marred what was otherwise praised by international observers as a peaceful, free and fair election last Sunday.

Coalition talks

The Islamist Ennahda party won the elections, securing more than 41% of the vote and 90 seats in the 217-member parliament.

Its leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, called on all Tunisians to reject violence, saying it had been provoked by forces linked to ousted President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Reuters news agency reported.

In his first news conference since the election, Mr Ghannouchi said there would be a role for women in politics and in the new government.

Election results

No attempt would be made to force women to wear the headscarf, including in government, he added.

The party has now started talks on the formation of a coalition, believed to be with its nearest rivals, the CPR and Ettakatol.

Correspondents say both are left-wing secularist parties which have insisted they will maintain Tunisia's Muslim identity.

Since its victory, Ennahda has sought to reassure secularists and investors, nervous about the prospect of Islamists holding power in one of the Arab world's most liberal countries, by saying it would not ban alcohol, stop tourists wearing bikinis on the beaches or impose Islamic banking.

But despite the reassurances, Ennahda's victory is causing concern in some parts of Tunisia, who fear the party could later change its policies, our correspondent says.

Birthplace of unrest

Witnesses said a crowd tried to attack the regional government headquarters in Sidi Bouzid.

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A nighttime curfew has been imposed on the town from 18:00 until 04:00 GMT, officials said.

Protesters earlier smashed doors and windows of the Ennahda headquarters in the town and also burned tyres on the streets.

The violence was triggered by an announcement that candidate lists of the Popular List party, which had won a number of seats in Sidi Bouzid, had been invalidated.

Popular List is led by London-based businessman Hachemi Hamdi.

One of the disqualified lists was headed by an ex-member of the former governing party, the Rally for Constitutional Democracy, prompting claims in the media that Mr Hamdi was a supporter of the former president.

Sidi Bouzid is the birthplace of the unrest which erupted earlier this year, triggering the Arab Spring uprisings. In December last year, street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself alight in protest at harassment from the authorities.

He died in January 2011, a few weeks before large-scale street protests forced long-time President Ben Ali to stand down.

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