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Tunisia: Tensions escalate on opposition leader's assassination - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Tunisians shout slogans in front of the interior ministry headquarters following the assassination of leading opposition figure Mohamed Brahmi on July 25, 2013 in Tunis. (AFP/Khalil)

Tunisians shout slogans in front of the interior ministry headquarters following the assassination of leading opposition figure Mohamed Brahmi on July 25, 2013 in Tunis. (AFP/Khalil)

Tunis, Asharq Al-Awsat—Opposition leader Mohammed Brahmi, a member of Tunisia’s Constituent Assembly, was assassinated on Thursday, further escalating tensions in the birthplace of the Arab Spring.

According to initial information, Brahmi was shot 11 times outside of his house in the capital, Tunis, in front of his wife and youngest daughter.

Brahmi was rushed to the hospital, where he was declared dead at approximately 1 p.m. local time on the same day.

So far, no political organization has claimed responsibility for the assassination.

Following the news of Brahmi’s murder, angry Tunisians took to the streets to protest the killing of the secularist politician.

The death of the 58-year-old Brahmi, an outspoken anti-Islamist politician, has brought the Ennahda party under further criticism, prompting protesters to set the office of the Islamist party on fire in Sidi Bouzid on Thursday evening.

Thousands of anti-government protestors gathered in front of the interior ministry in the capital, chanting slogans against the Ennahda party. “Down with the rule of Islamists,” they said, demanding the immediate resignation of the Islamist-dominated government.

For his part, Rachid Ghannouchi, leader of the Ennahda party, said Brahmi’s assassination aimed at “halting Tunisia’s democratic process and killing the only successful model in the region, especially after the violence in Egypt, Syria and Libya.”

Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, Iyed Dahmani, a member of the Constituent Assembly for the Republican Party, described the assassination of Brahmi as a “great and unbelievable tragedy,” adding, “I have lost a dear friend.”

Parliament sources revealed that Lotfi Ben Jeddou, the independent interior minister, was shocked upon receiving the news of Brahmi’s death while attending the Republic Day celebrations at the constituent assembly.

Brahmi’s assassination came around six months following the killing of the leftist Chokri Belaid in February by unknown assailants. Government sources have recently claimed that Belaid was targeted by six Islamists, and have announced that the suspects’ identities will soon be revealed.

In response to the killing of the leftist politician, many labor organizations, including civil servants, public transport workers and commerce, announced a strike on Friday.

“The executive office of the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) decided to go on general strike . . . it will be a political strike in defense of Tunisia and to protest at this new political assassination,” said UGTT spokesman Sami Tahri.

This tragic incident has come at a time when divisions between Islamists and the secular opposition in Tunisia have deepened following the ouster of Egypt’s Islamist leader by the military three weeks ago.

Update: Tunisian interior minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou has announced that Brahimi was killed with the same gun as Belaid. According to Reuters, he told a news conference: “The same 9mm automatic weapon that killed Belaid also killed Brahmi.” He has also named the main suspect in yesterday’s shooting as hardline Salafist Boubacar Hakim.