July 26, 2013 11:44:39 am
Tunisia faced a general strike today as the country was plunged into crisis after gunmen shot dead a leading opposition figure,an assassination that brought thousands onto the streets.
The killing of MP Mohamed Brahmi,a father-of-five who was shot by unknown gunmen outside his home yesterday,sparked international condemnation. It was the second such assassination this year.
It was not clear who carried out the killing,but the ruling Ennahda party,a moderate Islamist group,was forced to deny accusations from his family that it had been involved.
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 fall of the regime.
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The General Union of Tunisian Labour (UGTT) called today’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.
Tunisia’s national airline Tunisair cancelled all flights today. Brahmi,58,of the leftist Popular Movement,was killed utside his home in Ariana,near Tunis,Watanya state television and the official TAP news agency reported.
“He was riddled with bullets in front of his wife and children,” Mohsen Nabti,a fellow member of the small movement,said in a tearful account aired on Tunisian radio. Watanya said Brahmi had been struck by 11 bullets fired at point-blank range.
The February 6 assassination of Chokri Belaid,another opposition figure,also outside his home,sparked a political crisis in Tunisia and charges of government connivance. The family of Brahmi accused Ennahda of being behind both murders.
“I accuse Ennahda. It was them who killed him,” the MP’s sister Chhiba Brahmi told AFP 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.
Ennahda chief Rached Ghannouchi rejected the charge in a statement to AFP,calling Brahmi’s killing “a catastrophe for Tunisia”.
He added: “Those behind this crime want to lead the country towards civil war and to disrupt the democratic transition.”
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