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Presidential staff in Tunisia hospitalised after opening suspicious letter

The official suffered 'almost total loss of vision', the office says, adding that Tunisian president was not affected
Tunisian guards stand to attention at Presidential Palace in Carthage on 31 January 2018 (AFP/File photo)

The director of Tunisia's presidential office fell unconscious earlier this week after opening a suspicious envelope that was received at the presidential palace, the office said in a statement on Thursday. 

The envelope had been filled with an unknown substance that was believed to have caused the director to suffer an "almost total loss of vision", the statement said. 

The incident took place on Monday at the Carthage Palace but was not officially reported to the public. Following leaks that spread on social media, the office said it was compelled to clarify. 

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The director was taken to a military hospital for treatment and tests. The official's current condition was unclear. 

President Kais Saied was not involved in the opening of the letter and was not harmed, the office added. 

The envelope was reportedly shredded before being sent to the ministry of interior for testing. 

In Thursday's statement, officials said that "the nature of the substance could not be determined", adding that an investigation had been opened. 

Tunisia has seen a re-emergence of mass protests during the past several weeks, due to an economic crisis - exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic - that has sparked rapid inflation and high youth unemployment

Last week, at least 1,000 protesters were arrested in a six-day period.