Thursday, July 25, 2013

Unrest in Tunisia after second political murder in less than half a year

People walk beside the ambulance carrying the body of assassinated Tunisian opposition politician Mohamed Brahmi in Tunis July 25, 2013. REUTERS-Zoubeir Souissi
 Angry crowds accompany the ambulance with the body of the murdered Brahmi. (Reuters).

Tunisian opposition politician Mohamed Brahmi, who belonged to the nationalist and secular Popular Party, was shot dead outside his house in the capital Tunis on Thursday. Brahmi's sister later accused the main Islamist Ennahda party of being behind the killing. "Ennahda killed my brother," Souhiba Brahmi said. Ennahda has condemned the murder. The politician's wife said Brahmi had left the house after receiving a telephone call. She heard shots and found his body lying on the ground outside as two men fled on a motorcycle. Brahmi belonged to the secular, Arab nationalist Popular Front party, whose then-leader, Chokri Belaid, was killed in a similar way on February 6. His death ignited the worst violence in Tunisia since President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fell in 2011. Brahmi was a vocal critic of the Islamist-led government and a member of the Constituent Assembly charged with drawing up the North African country’s new constitution.
Thousands of people protested outside the Interior Ministry in Tunis and a hospital in the Ariana district where Brahmi's body had been taken. "Down with the rule of the Islamists," they chanted, and demanded that the government resign.
Big crowds accompanied Brahmi's body when it was taken later for autopsy at another Tunis hospital. Despite the presence of hundreds of soldiers and police, protesters smashed cars and broke some windows of the hospital in Ariana, witnesses said.
Similar demonstrations erupted in the southern town of Sidi Bouzid, the cradle of the Tunisian revolution, where protesters set fire to two local Ennahda party offices, witnesses said.
''Thousands have taken to the streets. People have blocked roads and set tires alight," said Mehdi Horchani, a resident of Sidi Bouzid. "People are very angry."
Police fired teargas to disperse protesters who stormed a local government office in the Mediterranean port of Sfax, 270 km (170 miles) southeast of Tunis, witnesses said.
Tunisia's biggest labor organization, UGTT, called for a general strike on Friday in protest at Brahmi's killing. Its secretary-general, Hussein Abbasi, earlier predicted that the assassination would lead the country into a "bloodbath".

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