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Dublin: 1°C Thursday 20 January 2022

Emotions high as slain Tunisia opposition leader buried

Thousands of Tunisians have taken to the streets for the funeral of an opposition leader – who was assassinated with the same weapon that killed a colleague.

Tunisians react as the coffin of Tunisian opposition politician Mohammed Brahmi is carried out of his home in El Ghazela.
Tunisians react as the coffin of Tunisian opposition politician Mohammed Brahmi is carried out of his home in El Ghazela.
Image: Amine Landoulsi/AP/Press Association Images

THOUSANDS OF TUNISIANS took to the streets today for the funeral of an opposition leader assassinated with the same weapon that killed a colleague, as tensions soared after anti-government protests.

Draped in the red and white Tunisian flag, Mohamed Brahmi’s coffin was saluted by soldiers as the cortege left his home in the Tunis neighbourhood of Ariana for El-Jellaz cemetery.

Emotions were high as supporters of Brahmi, who included members of his family, lifted the coffin to their shoulders before placing it on a military vehicle that was driven away under armed escort.

A military helicopter overflew the capital as a sea of flags fluttered among the crowd waiting for the funeral procession along Mohamed V Avenue.

“Allahu akbar! (God is greatest). There is no God but Allah and martyrdom is his friend,” shouted one voice from a crowd of at least 10,000 mourners who had gathered at El-Jellaz.

‘The people want the fall of the regime’

Army chief of staff General Mohamed Salah Hamdi read the eulogy and an imam prayed. His widow Mbarka, who wore a headscarf, made the V-for-victory sign.

“The people want the fall of the regime,” and “Ennahda terrorist gang,” the crowd shouted, before falling silent as the national anthem was played.

The coffin was then lowered into a grave next to that of leftist politician Chokri Belaid, in accordance with his wishes.

Brahmi, 58, was shot dead outside his home on Thursday with the same weapon used to gun down Belaid in February, Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou said.

Saturday’s state funeral was held in the absence of any representatives of the government led by the Islamist Ennahda party.

Hours before the funeral got under way, a bomb exploded near a police post in the port of Tunis on Saturday, damaging a police jeep, the interior ministry said.

A resident said the blast, the first known attack of its kind against a military vehicle in Tunisia, slightly wounded a policeman and caused panic among some residents of La Goulette district.

The ministry said nobody was hurt.

Anti-government demonstrations

The bombing comes a day after a general strike and an anti-government demonstration during which one person was killed.

Brahmi was an MP with the leftist and nationalist Popular Movement but on July 7 quit the party he founded, saying it had been infiltrated by Islamists.

The families of both men have accused Ennahda of being implicated in the deaths, but the authorities said Friday the investigation pointed to extremists with links to Al-Qaeda.

The powerful General Union of Tunisian Labour, or UGTT, called Friday’s general strike in protest at “terrorism, violence and murders”, while national airline Tunisair and some European carriers cancelled flights to Tunis.

The state prosecutor’s office said an autopsy found Brahmi had been hit by 14 bullets.

Balkis Brahmi, 19, one of Brahmi’s five children, told AFP he had been killed by two men in black on a motorbike.

Brahmi’s killing a ‘catastrophe’ for Tunisia

“At around midday, we heard gunfire and my father crying with pain. 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,” she said on Thursday.

Beji Caid Essebsi, head of the Nidaa Tounes party, had said Ennahda was to blame for Brahmi’s assassination because it had failed to identify Belaid’s killers.

“There has not been any serious judicial action,” he said.

Ennahda chief Rached Ghannouchi, in a statement to AFP on Thursday, said Brahmi’s killing was a “catastrophe” for Tunisia and said those responsible wanted to drag the country into civil war.

The UN human rights office urged official restraint in the face of public anger.

- © AFP, 2013

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