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Secular Politician Shot Dead, Protests Erupt Across Tunisia

Chokri Belaid, photo by Amine Ghrabi shared on Flickr

Chokri Belaid. Photo taken by Amine Ghrabi on October 15, 2012, shared on Flickr. (CC-NC)

Protests have erupted across Tunisia, following the assassination of Chokri Belaid, a leading member of the secular opposition, and a staunch opponent of the Islamist-led coalition government. His supporters and his mourners are either directly or indirectly accusing the Islamists for his murder.

Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali condemned the murder and described it as an “act of terrorism”, while President Moncef Marzouki cancelled his trip to Cairo where he was supposed to participate at the summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

France24 Observers published a video shot by Bel Fekih Amine, Belaid's neighbor on its YouTube page. The video shows the crime scene a few minutes after Belaid was shot dead outside his home in the early hours of February 6, 2013.

Family Accuses Islamists:
The police is still investigating, but Belaid's family is pointing fingers at the Islamist party Ennahdha. ‏@simonsayzzzzz, a journalist working for Agence France Presse tweeted [fr]:

Frère de #ChokriBelaïd: “(…)j'accuse Rached Ghannouchi d'avoir fait assassiner mon frère” #AFP #Tunisie

Chokri Belaid's brother: I accuse Rached Ghannouchi [President of Ennahdha] of assassinating my brother” #AFP #Tunisie

Zannoubia tweeted:

La sœur de #chokribelaid sur l'avenue accuse ennahdha le MI et leurs milices de l'assassinat de son frère. #Tunisie

the sister of Chokri Belaid at the avenue [of Habib Bourguiba] has accused Ennahdha, the ministry of interior and their militias for killing her brother

Ennahdha denied such accusations. Sasa Petricic the Middle East Correspondent for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation tweeted:

#Tunisia ruling Islamist Ennahda party denies responsibility in killing of prominent secular opp leader #ChokriBelaid, despite differences

“Assassinated for his ideas”:
Belaid was known for being a vocal critic of the government and Tunisian Islamists. Though, it is still not known who was behind his murder, Tunisian netizens seem to be confident that his anti-Islamist ideas cost him his life.

Haythem tweeted:

On a pu tuer #ChokriBelaid mais ses idées éterniseront

They were able to kill Chokri Belaid, but his ideas will live forever

Leith Ben Ayed said:

RIP #ChokriBelaïd. Un grand homme tué pour ses idées, qu'il ne soit pas mort en vain.

RIP Chokri Belaid. A great man murdered for his ideas. May he not die in vain

Protests Erupt:

Tear gas near Interior Ministry in Tunis. Photo by  Amine Ghrabi shared on Flickr

Tear gas near Interior Ministry in Tunis. Photo by Amine Ghrabi shared on Flickr. (CC-NC)

As the news of Belaid's murder spread like fire, protests have erupted in several regions of the country. AFP has also reported that the offices of Ennahdha and the government in several provinces of the country were attacked and vandalized.

 Police near the Interior Ministry in Tunis. Photo by Amine Ghrabi shared on Flickr. (CC-NC)

Police near the Interior Ministry in Tunis, February 6, 2013. Photo by Amine Ghrabi shared on Flickr. (CC-NC)

The collective blog Nawaat reports:

@nawaat:Des milliers de manifestants a #Gafsa. Le local d'Ennahdha saccagé et ses meubles et documents brulés. #chokribelaid

@nawaat: thousands of protesers in Gafsa [south west of Tunisia]. Ennahdha office was ransacked, furniture and documents were burned

@nawaat:A #Redayef le syndicat enseignant décréte la grève générale. Le local d'Ennahdha saccagé et ses meubles brûlés dans la rue #chokribelaid

@nawaat: in Rdeyef [a town in Gafsa, south west of Tunisia], the teachers’ syndicate declared a general strike. Ennahdha's office was ransacked and its furniture burned in the street.

@nawaat: a Sidi Bouzid, des centaines de manifestants tentent de forcer la porte du bâtiment du district de police. #sidibouzid #chokribelaid

@nawaat: In Sidi Bouzid, hundreds of protesers try to break into the police district office

Sasa Petricic tweeted:

Offices of #Tunisia governing party Ennahda attacked after opp’n leader #ChokriBelaid assassinated. Thousands protest in Tunis, SidiBouzid

At Habib Bourguiba Avenue [Tunis], police used tear gas to disperse protesters, who gathered outside the headquarters of the Interior Ministry, chanting anti-government slogans and calling upon the Interior Minister to leave office. France 24 correspondent David Thomson tweeted [fr]:

Tirs de gaz lacrymogène sur l'Avenue Bourguiba, dispersion des manifestants #Tunisie

tear gas at Habib Bourguiba avenue, protesters dispersed

He added in another tweet [fr]:

La situation dégénère en heurts manifestants/police sur #Bourguiba

the situation degenerates into clashes between protesters and police

Privately-owned radio station Shems FM shared the following video showing the chaotic situation at Habib Bourguiba avenue.

The clashes led to the death of a police officer, announced the Interior Ministry on its official facebook page.

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