Farewell to Ben Ali, Tunisia's ruler for 23 years

Fallen Tunisian autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali dies

Fallen Tunisian autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali dies

"We had confirmation of his death 30 minutes ago", the ministry said on Thursday afternoon without giving further details.

Former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali 1987 poses for an official picture in front of the Tunisian flag.

Tunisia's former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali has died in exile aged 83, his family says.

Successive Tunisian governments have failed, though, to deliver the economic growth needed to dent stubbornly high unemployment. In a country where many had experienced life under democracy elsewhere, Ben Ali's oppressive state was reason to chafe.

Ben Ali was widely detested and convicted repeatedly of corruption in Tunisia after he went into self-imposed exile.

For Ben Ali, the sudden end came when a desperate vegetable seller in the humble town of Sidi Bouzid set himself alight in December 2010 after police confiscated his barrow.

More than 300 people were killed in the initial repression of the protest movement.

Two years later the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazzi, a street vendor, led to massive protests in Tunis.

Ben Ali died in Saudi Arabia where he was receiving treatment after battling cancer for long.

He went on to make Tunisia a moderate, secular voice in the Arab world while Western governments viewed him as an effective bulwark against extremism - despite criticism of his reluctance to embrace democracy.

Ben Ali won elections during the first two presidential pools in 1989 and 1994, the BBC reported.

Born in Sousse on September 3, 1936, Ben Ali with military background deposed Tunisia's founding father Habib Bouguiba in 1987.

Since his fall, Ben Ali made rare public appearances or statements.

Tunisia's autocratic former president brought stability but little freedom to the country.