Thousands of people have protested in Tunisia after the deadly shooting of opposition figure Mohammed Brahmi. It is the second killing of a leading opposition politician to take place in the country this year.
"Mohammmed Brahmi, general coordinator of the Popular Movement and member of the National Constituent Assembly, was shot dead outside his home in Ariana," state television and the official TAP news agency reported Thursday.
The Popular Movement Party confirmed his death. Brahmi was in a car outside his home near Tunis when gunmen fired several shots at him, Interior Ministry spokesman Mohammed Ali Aroui said. Local media said he was shot 11 times. The 58-year-old politician held a seat in the assembly tasked with writing Tunisia's new constitution.
Brahmi's death comes a little over six months after another secular politician, Chokri Belaid, was assassinated. Belaid's party and family blamed the ruling Islamist Ennahda party for his death, which triggered nationwide protests and the resignation of the prime minister. The political crisis nearly derailed the country's transition following the overthrow of longtime strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.
Taking to the streets
Soon after his death on Thursday, thousands of people took to the streets to demonstrate around Tunis. Outside the hospital where Brahmi was taken, a crowd that included his daughter, Belkaeis (pictured above), mourned the politician's killing. Protesters in the region also set fire to Ennahda offices while the powerful UGTT labor confederation called for a general strike on Friday.
Brahmi's killing appears to have many similarities to the assassination of Belaid, who was gunned down outside his house by radical Islamists that remain on the loose. Brahmi's family also accused Ennahda of being behind his death.
"It was them who killed them," his sister Chhiba Brahmi told the AFP news agency. "Our family had the feeling that Mohammed would suffer the same fate as Chokri Belaid."
Ennahda released a statement calling Brahmi's death a "cowardly and despicable crime" and urging the government to "arrest those who committed this crime and reveal those behind them who have targeted the stability of the country."
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle condemned Brahmi's killing and urged Tunisia to continue with its democratic transition. The United States called it a "cowardly act," with State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf asking for a "transparent and professional investigation."
dr/tm (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)