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Tunisia police tear-gas thousands protesting killing

Tunisian police have tear-gassed thousands of protesters who gathered to denounce the murder of an opposition leader. The leading leftist politician Chokri Belaid was assassinated on Wednesday morning.

Protesters gathered on the same boulevard, near the Interior Ministry, where 2011’s anti-government protests resulted in the toppling of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. After they began throwing bottles, police responded by firing tear gas, chasing the protesters and beating them with batons.

Wednesday’s crowds chanted the same slogan as in 2011: "The people want the fall of the regime!" The chants "No to Ennahda" and "Ghannouchi assassin" were also heard, referring to the ruling Islamist party Ennahda and its leader, Rached Ghannouchi. As the police took action, demonstrators sought cover in nearby buildings.

Police also fired the teargas as an ambulance carrying Belaid's body approached the street in front of the ministry. He died at the hospital after being shot four times outside his home, in Tunisia’s first post-revolution political assasination. The 47-year-old lawyer had criticized the Islamist-led government and violence by radical Muslims.

Protesters flocked to the Interior Ministry after Belaid's family accused the country's ruling Ennahda party of being behind the death.

"My brother was assassinated. I am desperate and depressed," his brother, Abdelmajid Belaid, told the AFP news agency. "I accuse Rached Ghannouchi of assassinating my brother," he said.

mkg/rc (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)