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Politics

Tunisian opposition leader Chokri Belaid killed

Leading leftist Tunisian opposition leader Chokri Belaid has been killed. Protestors have flocked to the interior ministry after Belaid's family accused the country's ruling Ennahda party of being behind the death.

Chokri, the secretary-general of the Unified Democratic Nationalist Party, was shot dead Wednesday morning as he was leaving his home in Tunis, his family said.

"My brother was assassinated. I am desperate and depressed," his brother, Abdelmajid Belaid, told the AFP news agency.

"I accuse … [Ennahda leader] Rached Ghannouchi of assassinating my brother," he said.

Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali also denounced the killing, but said the identity of the killer was unknown.

"The murder of Belaid is a political assassination and the assassination of the Tunisian revolution. By killing him they wanted to silence his voice," said Jebali, who represents Ennahda, the party which won the first elections in Tunisia following the 2011 Arab Spring.

Some 1,000 people gathered outside the interior ministry to protest the killing, and President Moncef Marzouki cut short a visit to France and cancelled a visit to Egypt scheduled for Thursday.

The Tunisian government has faced many protests over economic hardship. Belaid had been critical of the country's leadership, especially the moderate Islamist Ennahda party. He accused authorities of not doing enough to stop violence by ultraconservatives who have targeted mausoleums, art exhibits and other things seen as out of keeping with their strict interpretation of Islam.

dr/hc (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)