GENEVA - The top United Nations human rights official accused Tunisia's security forces on Friday of using excessive force to quell a protest in an economically deprived region of the north African country.

Navi Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the authorities must stop using firearms against demonstrators in some of her harshest criticism of the Islamist-led government brought to power by an Arab Spring uprising last year.

The tactics used to put down the protests this week have stirred anger among secular politicians in Tunisia, who say the new government is advocating the kind of harsh policing long employed by ousted autocrat Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

More than 220 people are believed to have been injured when the demonstrators demanding jobs clashed with police on Tuesday and Wednesday in Siliana, a city on the edge of the Sahara whose inhabitants have long complained of neglect.

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