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Echoes of Egypt: Tunisian protestors urge Islamists to quit government

- The Washington Times - Friday, July 26, 2013

Strikes and demonstrations aimed at toppling the Islamist-led government rocked Tunisia Friday, after a prominent member of the secular opposition, parliamentarian Mohamed Brahmi, was shot and killed. 

Protestors blamed the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, which heads Tunisia’s post-revolutionary coalition government, for either staging the slaying, or for turning a blind eye to the activities of extremist killers.

"I accuse Ennahda," the MP's sister Chhiba Brahmi told Agence France Press at the family home in Sidi Bouzid, the southern town which was the cradle of the Tunisian revolution in 2010.

"It was them who killed him," she said, offering no evidence, AFP reported. Protesters in the area set fire to two local Ennahda party offices after the shooting Thursday and there were widespread demonstrations in the capital Tunis also. 

Investigators have linked the brutal shooting -- Mr. Brahmi was gunned down outside his home in front of his family -- to the slaying earlier this year of another prominent  secular opposition figure Chokri Belaid, whose family also blamed Ennahda.

Interior Minister Loutfi ben-Jeddou told a press conference Friday that ballistics tests on bullets used in the attack revealed they came from the same weapon used to kill Mr. Belaid in February, according to Egypt’s al-Ahram news website. The minister said a jihadi cell of 14 was behind that attack, four of whom were in custody.

The main suspect is hard-line extremist Abu Bakir Hakim, who is already wanted for smuggling weapons from Libya, ben-Jeddou said, according to al-Ahram.

Mr. Belaid and Mr. Brahmi were both members of the leftist-Arab nationalist Popular Front coalition, which called for the demonstrations Friday.

Ennahda’s leader, Rached Ghannouchi, rejected any charge that he or the party were responsible.

In a statement to AFP, he called Brahmi's killing "a catastrophe for Tunisia.”

Indeed, anger over the killing threatened to derail the country’s delicate transition to democracy. Tunisia has its own Tamarod (“Rebel!”) movement -- like the one in Egypt whose mass demonstrations paved the way for the army to depose the Islamist Moslem Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi on July 3.

Tamarod’s supporters want to dissolve the body which is drafting a new constitution for the country. They believe the constituent assembly is too dominated by Islamists and their supporters.

Tunisia's biggest labor union, UGTT, called for a general strike on Friday in protest at the killing and the Ennahda-led government declared a national day of mourning.

 

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