Anger erupts after Tunisian opposition leader assassinated

Last updated 08:44 26/07/2013

Tunisian opposition shot dead in the second such assassination this year, setting off violent protests against the Islamist-led government.

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Angry anti-government demonstrations have broken out across Tunisia after gunmen killed the leader of a leftist opposition party, raising fears of new chaos on the difficult road to democracy in the cradle of the Arab Spring.

Just five months after a similar assassination plunged the country into crisis, two gunmen shot Mohammed Brahmi, leader of the Popular Current party, in his car outside his home.

Tunisia is struggling after overthrowing dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. Many Tunisians are fed up with the government led by the moderate Islamist ruling party, Ennahda, which appears unable to handle a faltering economy, address popular unrest over unmet expectations and crack down on a rising extremist Islamist movement.

Protesters immediately blamed the latest killing on the government. Soon after news broke, crowds gathered outside the Interior Ministry in the heart of Tunis calling for its downfall.

There were also demonstrations around the country, including in Sidi Bouzid, Brahmi's impoverished home town and the birthplace of the country's revolution. Crowds in the nearby town of Meknassi burned down the local headquarters of Ennahda, which rules in a coalition with two secular parties.

The Popular Front coalition of leftist parties that included Brahmi's called for "civil disobedience in all locations of the country until the fall of the governing coalition."

The country's largest trade unions called for a general strike on Friday (local time)  that will shutter the government, public transportation and most shops freeing people up for what are expected to be large anti-government protests.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for Brahmi's killing. The two attackers sped off on a moped, according to a neighbour cited by the state news agency. Local media reported Brahmi was shot 11 times and his daughter witnessed his killing.

The killing immediately brought to mind the assassination of Chokri Belaid, also a member of the Popular Front coalition, who was killed in his car outside his home in February.

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- AP

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