Tens of thousands mourn slain Tunisian opposition leader

By REUTERS
February 8, 2013 13:30
1 minute read.

 
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TUNIS - Tens of thousands of mourners chanted anti-Islamist slogans on Friday at the Tunis funeral of secular opposition leader Chokri Belaid, whose assassination has plunged Tunisia deeper into political crisis.

Crowds surged around an open army truck carrying Belaid's coffin, draped in a red and white Tunisian flag, from a cultural center in the slain leader's home district of Jebel al-Jaloud. Demonstrators with flags and banners packed surrounding streets.

"Belaid, rest in peace, we will continue the struggle," they chanted, holding portraits of Belaid, who was shot dead outside his home on Wednesday by a gunman who escaped on the back of a motorcycle.

Some shouted slogans against Rachid Ghannouchi, leader of the ruling Islamist Ennahda party. "Ghannouchi, assassin, criminal," they chanted. "Tunisia is free, terrorism out."

Tunisia, cradle of the Arab uprisings, is riven by tensions between dominant Islamists and their secular opponents, and by frustration at the lack of social and economic progress since President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was ousted in January 2011.

In Sidi Bouzid, the southern town where the revolt began, about 10,000 protesters gathered to mourn Belaid and shout slogans against Ennahda and the government, witnesses said.

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