Tunisia at near standstill as general strike takes effect

A national flag and flowers are displayed in front of the home of Tunisian opposition leader and outspoken government critic Chokri Belaid where he was shot dead on February 6, 2013 in Tunis. (AFP)

Tunis was at a near standstill Friday, with streets deserted, shops shut and public transport at a minimum as a general strike called by a powerful trade union after a leftist politician was murdered took effect.

The Tunis-Carthage airport was open but many flights were cancelled, a Tunisair official told AFP.

A few buses and trams ran in the near-empty streets but there were few passengers.

The strike was called by the 500,000-strong General Union of Tunisian Workers to coincide with the funeral of Chokri Belaid, a lawyer and vocal critic of the ruling Ennahda party who was shot dead outside his home Wednesday by a lone gunman.

The assassination of the popular opposition leader sparked two days of clashes across the country between police and opposition supporters, leaving scores injured and a policeman dead.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to take to the streets for the burial of Belaid after weekly prayers in the Muslim country, whose long-established secular tradition has been countered by the rise of one of the region's most powerful Islamist parties.

Last Update: Thursday, 14 February 2013 KSA 15:04 - GMT 12:04