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Bomb explodes in Tunisia ahead of Brahmi funeral

AFP

A police officer was injured after a bomb exploded in a suburb of Tunis on Saturday. It followed a second day of demonstrations on Friday, sparked by the assassination of opposition figure Mohamed Brahmi, during which one protester was killed.

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A bomb under a car outside of a police station in a suburb of the Tunisian capital Tunis exploded early on Saturday morning, wounding a police officer, according to local media reports.

The explosion struck at around 5:45am local time at Tunis’ La Goulette port, according to an eyewitness and reports from the local Express FM and Shems FM radio stations.

An unmarked police car was also said to have been destroyed by the blast.

The incident came just a few hours before the funeral for Mohamed Brahmi, a secularist MP and outspoken critic of the ruling Islamist Ennahda party who was gunned down outside his home in Tunis on Thursday, five months after another opposition leader, Chokri Belaid, was killed in similar fashion.

Brahmi’s killing has sparked anti-government protests across Tunisia and plunged the country into political chaos.

Speaking to FRANCE 24, Sunday Times Tunisia correspondent Eileen Byrne explained that the site of the explosion is not far from the cemetery where Brahmi is due to be buried.

“Whoever [planted the bomb] is likely trying to up the tension,” she commented.

Protester killed

Meanwhile, thousands of protesters, many blaming the government for Brahmi’s assassination, took to the streets of Tunis and other cities around the country for a second consecutive day on Friday, during which it was reported one demonstrator died as police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Mohamed Moufli, 45, was struck in the head by a tear gas canister in the central Tunisian city of Gafsa and died soon afterwards in hospital, according to the AFP news agency. Reports suggest several other people where injured by teargas in the city.

Protesters were heard chanting "Down with the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood", referring to the ruling Ennahda party, which draws inspiration from the Brotherhood, a pan-Arab Islamist movement.

Shops and banks closed their doors and all flights in and out of the country were cancelled as the main General Union of Tunisian Labour (UGTT) staged a general strike in protest of "terrorism, violence and murders".

Political divisions deepen

Brahmi’s assassination has served to deepen divisions between Islamist political groups and their secular opponents, who have had fractious relations since Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was toppled in 2011 in the first of the Arab Spring revolutions.

Late on Friday, 42 opposition members announced their resignation from the 217-seat Constituent Assembly, of which Brahmi was a member, to protest the killing.

Khamis Kssila of the Nida Tounes Party told a news conference the departing members would begin a sit-in to demand the dissolution of the assembly and formation of a national salvation government.

The assembly, controlled by Islamists, is in charge of drafting a new constitution for the North African nation of 11 million people.

Government points finger at extremists

However, the government has denied responsibility for Brahmi’s murder and Tunisia’s Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou announced earlier on Friday that ballistic examinations showed the gun used in Thursday’s killing was the same one used in the Belaid assassination in February.

He said this showed the killing was the work of the extremist Salafist movement, which has also been accused of being behind the killing of Belaid.

The minister named Salafist member Boubaker Hakim, a French-born longtime jihadist who fought in Iraq, as the main suspect in the Brahmi shooting.

As well as the numerous anti-government protests, Friday also saw Ennahda supporters take to the streets, chanting slogans such as “The people want Ennahda again!” and “No to a coup against democracy!”, while rejecting demands for a new government of national unity.

The unrest comes at a pivotal time in Tunisian politics, as the country prepares to vote in the next few weeks on the new constitution before a presidential election later in the year.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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