Franco-German photographer injured in Tunis dead

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A Franco-German photojournalist wounded by a police tear-gas canister while covering unrest in Tunisia died of his injuries Monday, his employer and the French foreign ministry said.

"We got the official confirmation today that he died today," a spokeswoman for the European Pressphoto Agency (EPA) in Frankfurt told AFP.

Lucas Mebrouk Dolega, 32, was wounded on Friday when he was hit by a police tear-gas grenade as he covered the street protests that triggered the downfall of Tunisia's strongman Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.

Initial reports early Sunday said he was dead, but it later emerged he was "in a critical but stable condition". He underwent surgery at Tunisia's National Neurological Institute, but eventually succumbed to his wounds.

In Paris, the French foreign ministry confirmed the death, in a statement in which it condemned the "disproportionate violence used against protesters and journalists" and called for an enquiry.

According to the victim's colleague Julien Muguet the grenade was fired at point blank range and hit the journalist in the face, destroying one of his eyes and causing a critical head injury.

Mebrouk Dolega is the first foreign journalist known to have died in the Tunisian crisis, but rights groups say scores of unarmed civilian protesters were slain in the street battles that led to Ben Ali's ouster.

Tunisian Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi on Monday announced "total freedom" for the media and said a ban on the activities of the North African state's main human rights group had been lifted.

© 2011 AFP

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