Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki called for calm after the killing of government opposition member Mohammad al-Brahimi on Thursday has led to angry protesters calling for the government to step down.
While Marzouki called for dialogue to foil “plans against Tunisia’s national security,” he urged people in the country to keep “walking in the correct path and to cooperate to pass this phase together.”
Protesters gathered in front of the Interior Ministry in Tunis urging the government to cede power while police fired teargas to disperse protesters in the Tunisian city of Sfax.
According to preliminary reports, Brahimi, 58, was shot 11 times in front of his home in the al-Ghazala neighborhood in Tunis.
“Mohammad al-Brahimi, general coordinator of Popular Movement and member of the National Constituent Assembly, was shot dead outside his home,” state television and the official TAP news agency reported.
“He was riddled with bullets in front of his wife and children,” Mohsen Nabti, a fellow member of the small leftist movement, told Tunisian radio.
The opposition member had resigned from his post as general secretary of the Popular Movement, which he founded, on July 7, saying that the party had been infiltrated by Islamists.
Reuters reported that thousands of people headed towards the Interior Ministery in the Tunisian capital to protest the killing of the opposition figure. It added that thousands are protesting in Sidi Bouzid, the birthplace of the Tunisian revolution, which sparked the Arab Spring.
“Thousands have taken to the streets, people have blocked roads and set tires alight,” Reuters quoted Mehdi Horchani, a resident in Sidi Bouzid, as saying. “People are very angry.”
Another secular politician, Chokri Belaid, was killed around six months ago. His assassination led to protests across Tunisia.
Meanwhile, the state media reported that Friday will be a national day of mourning.
The largest labor organization in the country announced a general strike on Friday.
Tunisia is led by the moderate Islamist Ennahda Party, which the opposition has criticized for not cracking down on Islamist extremists.
Many members of Belaid’s party hold the government responsible for his killing.
Ennahda issued a statement on Thursday condemning “this cowardly and despicable crime” and calling on the government to “urgently arrest those who committed this crime and reveal those behind them who have targeted the stability of the country.”
The United Nations rights chief condemned the killing and demanded a probe into the incident.
“I am shocked and deeply saddened by the news of Mr. Brahmi's assassination. I call upon the authorities to immediately launch a prompt and transparent investigation to ensure that the people who carried out this crime are held accountable,” Navi Pillay said in a statement.
(With AFP, AP, Reuters)