Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Tunisian Opposition Leader Killed amid Tensions

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Tunisian Opposition Leader Killed amid Tensions

Article excerpt

TUNIS, Tunisia --

A Tunisian opposition leader critical of the Islamist-led government was gunned down as he left home today in the first assassination in post-revolutionary Tunisia, setting off anti- government riots that left downtown Tunis choked with tear gas and patrolled by armored vehicles.

The killing of Chokri Belaid, a 48-year-old lawyer, heightens tensions in the North African nation whose path from dictatorship to democracy has been seen as a model for the Arab world so far.

Police used tear gas to disperse thousands of protesters who assembled in front of the Interior Ministry in the center of the capital to accuse the government of allowing the assassination to happen. At one point, an ambulance carrying Mr. Belaid's body drove in front of the ministry accompanied by protesters before they, too, were forced away.

The demonstrators gathered on the same broad, tree-lined boulevard where weeks of anti-government protests two years ago ousted Tunisia's long-time dictator -- and the crowds today even chanted the same slogan: "The people want the fall of the regime!"

Like two years ago, police soon resorted to tear gas, sending people running for the shelter of nearby buildings yelling "No to Ennahda" and "Ghannouchi assassin," referring to the moderate Islamist party and its leader, who dominate the elected government.

The city center was left 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.

Elsewhere around the country, police responded to a protest in the coastal city of Sousse with tear gas, and Ennahda offices were attacked in several towns, according to Radio Mosaique and Radio Shems FM.

Mr. Belaid, a leading member of a leftist alliance of parties known as the Popular Front, was shot as he left his house in the capital, Tunis, and was taken to a nearby medical clinic, where he died, the TAP state news agency reported. …

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