February 5, 2013

Tunisia Opposition Leader Assassinated In Capital

A grave turn of events in Tunisia that will hopefully inspire renewed effort rather than new divisions:
A top Tunisian opposition figure, Shokri Belaid, leader of the left-leaning opposition Democratic Patriots party, has been shot dead as he was leaving his home.

He was transported to a hospital in the suburbs of Tunis on Tuesday, where he died of his wounds, his bother confirmed.

"My brother was assassinated. I am desperate and depressed," Abdelmajid Belaid said. The wife of the opposition leader, speaking to Radio Mosaique, said he had been hit by two bullets.

Al Jazeera's Youssef Gaigi, reporting from Tunis, said the murder came as a shock for many in Tunisia.

"This was clearly a targeted killing of a high profile politician, the first of its kind in this country."

Ziad Lakhader, a leader of the Popular Front, an ally of the Democratic Patriots, said Belaid was killed by bullets to the head and chest; "Doctors told us that he has died. This is a sad day for Tunisia."

Vocal critic

Belaid had been critical of Tunisia's leadership, especially the Islamic party Ennahda that dominates the government.

He had accused authorities of not doing enough to stop violence by ultraconservatives who have targeted mausoleums, art exhibits and other things seen as out of keeping with their strict interpretation of Islam.

Government spokesman Samir Dilou called it an "odious crime".

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