Protests amid uncertainty in Tunisia
Demonstrators call on Tunisian Prime Minister Hamdi Jebali to resign, following the death of a secular opposition leader.PT1M3S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2e233 620 349 February 8, 2013
CAIRO: Tunisia's Islamist Prime Minister has offered to dissolve his government and form a national unity cabinet after the assassination on Wednesday night of a leading secular politician caused the country's worst crisis since the Arab Spring.
Thousands of protesters rampaged through cities after Chokri Belaid, 48, head of the small, left-wing Democratic Patriotic Party, was shot three times in the head and chest as he left his home in Tunis.
Mr Belaid had criticised Islamist violence, accusing the ruling party, al-Nahda, and its leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, of sympathising with the perpetrators.
Assassinated ... Tunisian lawyer Chokri Belaid speaking during a radio interview in Tunis. Photo: AFP
His family blamed al-Nahda for his assassination. Mr Belaid's wife, Basma, said her husband had received daily death threats.
''I saw his blood flowing, I saw his little smile. I saw that they want to kill democracy,'' Mrs Belaid said.
Hours after the assassination, the Tunisian Prime Minister, Hamadi Jebali, said on television: ''I have decided to form a government of competent nationals without political affiliation, which will have a mandate limited to managing the affairs of the country until elections are held in the shortest possible time.''
Grief and bewilderment ... An elderly woman mourns Chokri Belaid. Photo: AFP
Tunisia held parliamentary elections after the Arab Spring, which led to a coalition of the moderate Islamist al-Nahda and two centre-left secular parties taking power.
But the economy has failed to recover from the upheaval and the country has been plagued by violence from radical Salafi Islamist groups, which have disrupted secular political meetings and attacked Sufi Muslim shrines.
Al-Nahda offices were set on fire in towns after news of the assassination broke.
An immediate response ... outrage. Photo: AFP
Mr Ghannouchi condemned the shooting. ''The killers want a bloodbath but they won't succeed,'' he said.
The Tunisian President, Moncef Marzouki, a figurehead from a secular party allied to al-Nahda, was in Strasbourg to address the European Parliament.
''This odious assassination of a political leader, who I knew well and who was my friend, is a threat,'' he said. ''It is a letter sent that will not be received.''
A Tunisian protester jumps through tear gas. Photo: AFP
The night before he was killed, Mr Belaid told Tunisian television: ''There are groups inside al-Nahda inciting violence … all those who oppose al-Nahda become the targets of violence.''