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  • 26 July 2013, 15:40

Tunisian Leaders Assassinated With Same Gun

Tunisian politician Mohammed Brahmi was killed with the same gun that killed another opposition leader, the country's interior minister has confirmed.

Lotfi Ben Jeddou said the shots fired at Mr Brahmi outside the MP's home came from the 9mm automatic weapon used to kill Chokri Belaid six months ago, suggesting the involvement of the radical Islamist group Ansar al Sharia.

He named Boubacar Hakim, a hardline Salafist already being sought of suspicion of smuggling weapons from Libya, as the main suspect.

Mr Brahmi's daughter Balkis said she saw two men in black T-shirts and helmets fleeing the murder scene on scooters.

"At around midday, we heard gunfire and my father crying with pain," she said.

"We rushed out, my  brother, mother and I, to find his body riddled with bullets at the wheel of his car parked in front of the house.

"Local police took a long time coming and a neighbour took my father to hospital where he died. He lived as a man of principle and has left us a martyr."

Mr Brahmi's death threatened to plunge Tunisia into fresh political turmoil, with one of the country's biggest trade unions threatening a wave of strikes against a backdrop of widespread protests.

Thousands of people gathered outside the interior ministry in the capital Tunis, as protesters blamed the Islamist party Ennahda for the MP's killing.

The accusation was rejected by party leader Rached Ghannouchi, who described Mr Brahmi's death as "a catastrophe for Tunisia".

"Those behind this crime want to lead the country towards civil war and to disrupt the democratic transition," he said.

Mr Jeddou said there was no evidence of any political party's involvement in Mr Brahmi's assassination, while prime minister Ali Larayedh added: "I condemn in the strongest terms this odious crime which targets the whole of Tunisia and its security."

Further demonstrations are planned across Tunisia as Mr Brahmi's funeral takes place, while industrial action called for by the General Union of Tunisian Labour could further inflame tensions.

A day of mourning has been declared and national airline Tunisair has cancelled all flights.

The assassination of Mr Belaid outside his home in February sparked a political crisis in Tunisia, as mass protests led to the resignation of then-prime minister Hamadi Jebali.

"Our family had the feeling Mohammed would suffer the same fate as Chokri Belaid," Mr Brahmi's sister Chhiba said.

Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring, is struggling with a democratic transition after the overthrow of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.

The country is led by Ennahda, which rules in a coalition with two secular parties.

However, the opposition has criticised the party for not cracking down on hardline Islamists, who have been blamed for many acts of violence in the last few years.

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