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Africa

Opposition figure Belaid's 'assassin' killed, says Tunisia

© afp

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-02-04

The suspected assassin of prominent opposition figure Chokri Belaid – whose death triggered a major political crisis in the country – has been killed in clashes with security forces, Tunisia's interior minister said Tuesday.

The National Guard killed "seven heavily-armed terrorists” in a shootout in a suburb of Tunis, Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou told reporters.

“Some of them have been identified ... Kamel Gadhgadhi was found to be among them," he said, a reference to Chokri's alleged killer.

The assassination of Belaid a year ago Thursday ignited a political crisis that is only now starting to show signs of easing following the adoption of a new constitution late in January.

On February 6, 2013, Tunisians were stunned to learn of the death of the 48-year-old lawyer and leftist politician who had been a fierce critic of Ennahda, the Islamist party that rose to power after the Arab Spring toppled long-time ruler Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

Belaid was gunned down at close range outside his house, with the authorities blaming jihadists from Ansar al-Sharia, a Salafist group allegedly linked to al Qaeda.

It was the first of two political assassinations last year that fuelled rising unrest and eventually forced premier Ali Larayedh of the Ennahda party, a moderate Islamist movement, to step down last month under a deal to end the crisis.

Never claimed responsibility

Ansar al-Sharia never claimed responsibility for the attack, and neither the assassin nor the attack's organisers have ever been identified, with only suspected accomplices jailed.

Relatives of the slain politician will hold a press conference on Thursday with a candlelit vigil also planned on Avenue Habib Bourguiba in central Tunis.

Activists have also called for a demonstration on Saturday to mark the anniversary of Belaid's burial, when a general strike brought Tunisia to a standstill as tens of thousands turned out to pay homage to him, in what became a mass anti-Ennahda rally.

"We don't know anything. All scenarios are possible," said Belaid's widow, Basma Khalfaoui, who at the time publicly blamed the ruling Islamists for the assassination.

Today she says they are at least guilty of having "hidden" key documents in the murder inquiry.

As for the commitment by newly appointed Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa to "uncover the truth and bring all those guilty to justice", Khalfaoui says she has yet to be convinced.

"We no longer believe in commitments. We will judge by actions," she said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2014-02-04

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