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Introduction
Sources:
Africa 2006,

 More than 3,000 years ago the Phoenicians established trading posts in the region and, according to legend, in 814 BC a group of exiles under the leadership of Princess Dido fled from Tyre (in present-day Lebanon) and founded Carthage (the New City). Carthaginian colonizers in Sicily and Spain encountered Roman opposition and became embroiled in a protracted struggle known as the Punic Wars which lasted from 264 until 146 BC when Carthage was finally defeated and razed. The Romans called their conquered territory Africa, a name probably derived from Afrig (Arab: Ifriqiya), the name also given to the Berber group living to south of Carthage. Carthage was rebuilt by Julius Caesar and became an important center for Chris tianity in the Roman empire. Except for an interval of Vandal rule from 439-533, Carthage remained part of the Roman Empire until 669 when the Arabs invaded. After the Arabs took control of the region which they called the Maghreb, they virtually annihilated Carthage and founded the new city of Tunis. In Tunisia, as elsewhere in the Mahgreb region, Berbers assimilated with the Arab rulers and adopted their faith. Tunisia became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1570. France invaded Tunisia in 1881 and ruled it as a protectorate until 1956 when a freedom movement under Habib Bourguiba finally forced it to grant independence. First as prime minister and afterwards as president-forlife, Bourguiba stayed in office until the age of 84 in 1989 when he was declared physically and mentally unfit by a panel of medical doctors. The life-presidency was subsequently abolished and an age limit of 70 years introduced. He was succeeded as president by Zine El Abidine Ben Ali who was reelected in October 2004 for a fourth term-overriding the two term stipulation adopted in the wake of Bourguiba's long tenure.


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