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Africa North
Tense Tunisia to bury Chokri Belaid
2013-02-08
Tunisia is set to bury opposition leader Chokri Belaid amid huge tension surrounding his assassination.

Towns nationwide are braced for another day of violence and the largest trade union has called a general strike. Unions say the government led by the Islamist Ennahda party is to blame for the killing, an accusation it denies.

PM Hamadi Jebali has tried to defuse tensions by calling for a non-partisan technocratic government but his party has refused to accept this.

On Friday, the streets of the capital Tunis were largely deserted, with many shops shut and most public transport not running. A number of flights at Tunis-Carthage airport were cancelled.

Tunisian state TV said universities had been ordered to suspend lectures on Saturday and Sunday, while France said it would close its schools in Tunis.

The BBC's Wyre Davies in Tunis says thousands of mourners have already gathered in the suburb where Mr Belaid's body is being brought before the burial. Hundreds of thousands more are expected to take to the streets of the capital following Friday prayers and ahead of the funeral in the afternoon.

Our correspondent says it is difficult to overestimate the tension on the streets of Tunis, Sfax and other provincial towns - a tension that has been simmering for many months between liberal, secular Tunisians and the Islamist-led government. He says that people who thought the violence and division had ended as the Arab Spring swept through the country almost exactly two years ago now find themselves protesting on the same streets, fighting with riot police and accusing the Islamist-led government of stealing their revolution.
Unexpectedly...
The death of Mr Belaid, a leading critic of the governing party, has proved to Tunisians what they already feared, says our correspondent, and Friday's funeral is certain to be an emotional and highly charged event.

The first political assassination in Tunisia since the Arab Spring uprising in 2011, Mr Belaid was shot dead at close range on his way to work on Wednesday. The attacker fled on the back of a cycle of violence motorcycle.
Posted by:Steve White

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