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Another Political Assassination Throws Tunisia Into Turmoil

NPR icon by Eyder Peralta
Fethi Belaid

This morning Mohamed Brahmi, a 58-year-old politician and fierce critic of Tunisia's ruling Islamic party, was shot dead outside his house.

The apparent assassination comes just six months after Chokri Belaid, who had been the country's leading opposition leader, was gunned down in similar fashion. His killing and the subsequent protests led to the resignation of Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali.

Tunisia was the birthplace of the Arab Spring, and experts fear the latest assassination could send the country into an Egypt-like crisis: the secularists in battle with the Islamists.

The Tunis Times reports that the assassination of Brahmi set off huge protests, in which demonstrators chanted against Ennahdha, the ruling Islamist party.

Time Magazine reports:

"Perhaps fearing that street protests could spread, Ennahda quickly issued a statement after Brahmi's death on Thursday, saying that it felt 'immense sadness and shock,' and demanding that the Interior Ministry 'urgently arrest those who committed this crime.'

"Judging by the pursuit of Belaid's killers since his assassination last February, the chances of quick arrests do not look good, however."

Reuters reports that bigger protests are expected tomorrow:

"Tunisia's biggest labor organization, UGTT, called for a general strike on Friday to protest Brahmi's killing. Its secretary-general, Hussein Abbasi, earlier predicted that the assassination would lead the country into a 'bloodbath'.

"All flights to and from Tunisia will be canceled on Friday after a general strike was called by the main labor organization, the civil aviation office said.

"Tunisia's political transition since the revolt that toppled Ben Ali has been relatively peaceful, with the moderate Islamist Ennahda party sharing power with smaller secular parties. But the government has struggled to revive a stuttering economy and has come under fire from secularists who accuse it of failing to curb the activities of Salafi Islamists."

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