Tunisia 'at a crossroads'
Prominent Tunisian opposition leader, Chokri Belaid, was assassinated on Wednesday, driving many to the streets. Officials fear the assassination may destabilize Tunisia's recent progress toward democracy.
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But opposition leaders such as Belaid said the leagues have become Ennahda-backed goon squads that attacked opposition rallies. Last weekend saw a string of attacks against such meetings, including a rally held by Belaid's Popular Front in northern Tunisia.Skip to next paragraph
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Belaid, a lawyer, was shot four times point blank as he left his house in Tunis on Wednesday morning. He was taken to a nearby clinic where he died. His wife told French Radio RTL he was shot twice in the head, once in the neck and once in the heart.
"He died for the country. He died for democracy," Basma Belaid said. "He was threatened all the time," she added, holding Ennahda directly responsible for his death.
Belaid's funeral is scheduled for Friday and the family has said members of the ruling coalition will not be welcome.
As word of the assassination spread, demonstrators converged on the Interior Ministry in the center of the capital chanting anti-government slogans.
The scenes were reminiscent of the final days of Ben Ali as protesters surged down the tree-lined Bourguiba Avenue shouting "the people want the fall of the regime" and were met with volleys of tear gas and riot police.
At one point, the ambulance containing Belaid's body, surrounded by angry mourners, headed toward the ministry before it was driven off by tear gas.
By late afternoon, the center of the city was largely deserted and littered with stones, guarded by police armored vehicles and patrolled by a tank from the national guard. Knots of riot police chased protesters through the elegant downtown streets.
At least one policeman died in the clashes, the Interior Ministry said.
Protests flared across the rest of the country as well, with fierce clashes in the southern town of Gafsa and the coastal cities of Sousse and Monastir. Ennahda offices were also attacked in several towns, according to media reports.
Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, a member of a secular party in the governing coalition, called the Belaid assassination a threat against all Tunisians in a speech before the European Parliament in Strasbourg before he rushed home, canceling a trip to Cairo.
"All these destabilization attempts — and there will be others because for some the Tunisian model should not succeed — I can tell you that we will face the challenge and defeat it," he told journalists.
The assassination also comes as Tunisia is struggling to revive its economy. On Monday, the central bank head, Chedli Ayari, said that while the country was on the road to recovery, the political squabbling had to be resolved to reassure foreign and Tunisian investors.