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Strike hits Tunisia in wake of MP assassination

© AFP

Video by Julia SIEGER

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-07-26

Tunisia was braced for fresh violence Friday the day after the assassination of leftist politician Mohamed Brahmi. Shops and banks were closed, and flights cancelled, after a call by unions for a general strike.

Shops and banks in Tunisia were closed and all flights cancelled on Friday as the country braced for more street violence a day after the assassination of leading leftist opposition figure Mohamed Brahmi on Thursday.

His killing was the second assassination this year of a politician opposed to the country’s Islamist government.

The country’s leading union called for action after this latest death sparked protests in Tunisia.

Father-of-five Brahmi, 58, of the leftist Popular Movement, was gunned down outside his home in Ariana, near Tunis.

Who was Mohamed Brahmi?

"He was riddled with bullets in front of his wife and children," Mohsen Nabti, a fellow member of the small leftist movement, said in an emotional account aired on Tunisian radio.

The radio station said Brahmi had been struck by 11 bullets fired at point-blank range.

The assassination bore all the hallmarks of the February 6 killing of Chokri Belaid, another leftist opposition figure, which sparked a political crisis in Tunisia and charges of government connivance.

Ballistic evidence

And on Friday, Tunisia’s interior ministry said the ballistics reports from the murders indicated that both men had been killed by the same weapon.

It was not clear who carried out Thursday’s killing, but the ruling Ennahda party, a moderate Islamist group, was forced to deny accusations from his family that it had been involved,pinning the blame on “radical Salafists”.

But Brahmi’s family were adamant that the government had a hand in his death.

"I accuse Ennahda. It was them who killed him," Brahmi’s sister Chhiba Brahmi told reporters at the family home in Sidi Bouzid, without providing any evidence.

"Our family had the feeling that Mohamed would suffer the same fate as Chokri Belaid," whose family also blamed the authorities, she said.

FRANCE 24’s Tunisia correspondent Eilee Byrne said the news of the murder felt like “déjà-vu from February.”

Tolerant of extremists?

Byrne added that “while no serious political voices are accusing the government of direct involvement, many are saying that the government has been too tolerant of the extremist fringes, of very radical Islamists”.

The General Union of Tunisian Labour (UGTT) called Friday's general strike across the country in protest at "terrorism, violence and murders".

The union last called a two-hour general strike on January 14, 2011, the day former Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fell.

Late on Thursday there were demonstrations in central Tunis and in Sidi Bouzid, the birthplace of the Arab Spring and Brahmi's hometown.

Police in Tunis fired tear gas to disperse scores of demonstrators who tried to set up a tent for a sit-in calling for the government to step down.

Tunisia's national airline Tunisair cancelled all flights Friday.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-07-26

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