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Tunisian secular opposition leader shot dead

Text by Tony Todd

Latest update : 2013-02-06

Tunisian opposition figure Chokri Belaid, the head of the Democratic Patriotic Party and a leading voice of the country’s secular opposition, has been shot dead outside his home in the capital Tunis.

A leading member of Tunisia’s opposition was shot dead on Wednesday morning as he was leaving his house in the capital Tunis.

Chokri Belaid, who was secretary general of the leftist Democratic Patriotic Party, was shot in the head and neck and died as he was taken to hospital.

The scene of the crime - Belaid was shot as he was leaving home for work.

A leading voice of secular opposition in Tunisia, he was also a harsh critic of the Islamists who have come to dominate Tunisian politics since the country’s revolution in early 2011.

While motives for his killing remain unclear, Belaid’s party was a member of the Popular Front coalition of parties opposed to the government, dominated by the Islamist Ennahda party, which was elected in December 2011.

Several opposition parties and trade unions have accused the pro-Islamists of orchestrating attacks against them.

Alaa Talbi, a close friend of Belaid,  told FRANCE 24 that the politician had been threatened and “beaten up” on Sunday during a party meeting in the town of Kef.

‘Beyond despair’

"My brother has been assassinated," Abdelmajid Belaid told reporters on Wednesday. "I am beyond despair. I accuse [Ennahda leader] Rachid Ghannouchi of assassinating my brother."

A crowd of more than 1,000 was gathered outside the Interior Ministry in Tunis to protest against what they say is a politically-motivated assassination.

Demonstrators there chanted "Shame, shame ", "Where is the government?" and "The government should fall".

By late morning, protests had spread to several other Tunisian towns amid reports that Ennahda offices had been “attacked” by demonstrators.

FRANCE 24’s David Thompson said that large crowds of mourners were flocking to the hospital where Belaid’s body had been taken.

‘They wanted to shut him up’

More than a thousand protesters gather at the Interior Ministry. Picture by Omar Moussana,

Tunisia is witnessing a rise in violence fed by political and social discontent, more than two years after the revolution that toppled former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, a senior figure in the Ennahda movement, told Tunisian radio: “This was a political assassination and an assassination of the Tunisian revolution."

“In killing him, they wanted to shut him up.”

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki announced Wednesday that he was returning early from Egypt, where he was attending the Islamic Conference Organisation meeting.




Date created : 2013-02-06


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