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26 Jul, 2013 03:54

Tunisia erupts in renewed protests: LIVE UPDATES

Tunisia erupts in renewed protests: LIVE UPDATES

With the murder of yet another opposition leader Tunisia is again in chaos, as thousands of secularists fill the streets, setting Islamist party offices on fire and clashing with police in several cities.

Saturday, July 27

05:21 GMT: The assassination of leftist opposition political leader Mohammed Brahmi could spell the end of the ruling coalition government dominated by Islamist Ennahda Party in Tunisia. Six secular opposition parties holding 42 seats in the 217-seat national assembly announced their withdrawal on Friday, demanding the government resign in order to be replaced with a national unity government to finalize constitution and prepare fresh elections.

“I think most of the political elite feel it is urgent after the assassination to dissolve the current government and replace it with a non-partisan, competent one,” political analyst Alaya Allani told AP.

The investigation into Brahmi’s death revealed that the gun used to shoot the leftist politician was the same 9mm semi-automatic pistol that killed another opposition politician, Chokri Belaid, back in February. Since the news about an Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist extremist cell being involved in the two assassinations spread on Friday, calls have been growing to the transitional government to resign after 18-months of fruitless work.

00:36 GMT: A person dies during a violent protest in the city o Gafsa, local witnesses say.

Friday, July 26

13:20 GMT: Around 300 protesters are now gathered outside the National Constituent Assembly, Tunisia Live reports, though the numbers may swell as the day goes on.

13:05 GMT: The interior minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou has identified "Salafist extremists"  Boubaker Hakim and  Lutfi al-Zayn as leading suspects in Brahmi's murder. He said the two were part of a 14-man extremist group.

12:30 GMT: The Turkish Foreign Ministry has issued a statement, condemning the assassination of Mohamed Brahmi.

We condemn this hateful assault that targeted the political stability and security of Tunisia. We urge acting in restraint and with common sense to protect the gains on the path to democratization in an effort to prevent ongoing reforms from being harmed,” the statement reads, as cited by Today’s Zaman daily.

12:00 GMT: Thousands of Tunisians are heading towards the National Constituent Assembly chanting "no fear, no terror, the state is against the people," according to Tunisia Live website.

Crowds on Habib Bourguiba via @rjoyce908pic.twitter.com/jB3ade3VXY#Brahmi#Tunisia

— Tunisia Live (@Tunisia_Live) July 26, 2013

11:40 GMT: Mohamed Brahmi was shot with the same gun that was used to kill opposition leader Chokri Belaid in February, according to the Tunisian interior minister, as cited by Reuters.

00:45 GMT: More demonstrations are possible but local media reported protests have dispersed and appear unlikely to continue. The Ministry of Interior announced a press conference Saturday, when they will publicize findings in the Brahmi assassination and the Belaid case. 

Thursday, July 25

23:55 GMT: A large crowd set a police station ablaze in Siliana. 

23:40 GMT: Brahmi’s funeral has been scheduled for Saturday, when he will be laid to rest next to Chokri Belaid. 

23:18 GMT: The US State Department, during its daily briefing, called on the Tunisian government to hold an immediate investigation into the murder, saying it “condemns violence” and that “violence has no place in Tunisia’s democratic transition.” 

We call on all Tunisians to renounce violence and express themselves peacefully,” said spokeswoman Marie Harf. 

Tunisian opposition figure Mohamed Brahmi.(AFP Photo / Fethi Belaid)

22:19 GMT: Protesters gathered in front of a labor union office before marching to a local Ennahdha office and burning it down, according to Tunisia Live. Demonstrators elsewhere chanted calling for the fall of the Ennahdha government before the crowds were broken up by police firing tear gas. 

Young women were spotted chanting “Ghannouchi is an assassin” before they too were targeted by security forces and told to go home. 

20:46 GMT: The UGTT labor union called for a general strike to protest the killing. All Tunisair flights scheduled, both incoming and outgoing,  have been canceled. 

20:30 GMT: Ennahdha issued a statement urging calm, but decried the killers, saying they were motivated by the advancing investigation into Chokri Belaid’s assassination. Ennahdha said the assassins intend “to destabilize the country, intimidate the people, [and] paint us as a failed state.” 

Tunisians gather to protest the killing of opposition politician Mohamed Brahimi in Tunis, July 25, 2013.(Reuters / Anis Mili)

19:40 GMT: President Moncef Marzouki addressed the public in a television speech.

These people who killed this man, this human being, this Tunisian, this Muslim, they killed him on the 25 July; this is not a coincidence,” he said. 

19:30 GMT: Prime Minister Ali Laarayedh took to Facebook to condemn Brahmi’s murder, which he said “comes at a time when the country is witnessing stability and consensus…this targets the revolution and its achievements and is aimed at exploiting the current situation in Egypt and troubles Tunisia is witnessing to try to push us from the right path and into the unknown, whether it is chaos, fighting, civil war, or the return of tyranny.” 

19:15 GMT: Representatives from Tamarod, a group dedicated to overthrowing the government and NCA, told Tunisia Live they do not plan to stop efforts to organize more protests with help from any interested group. 

Even if Satan had a political party, we would meet with him,” said Tamarod spokesperson Mahdia Said. 
His comments came after demonstrators tried in vain to break into a municipal building. Police used tear gas to disperse the crowds.

Tunisians gather to protest the killing of opposition politician Mohamed Brahimi in Tunis, July 25, 2013.(Reuters / Anis Mili)

18:10 GMT: According to reports from Radio Sfax, protesters in Monstair and Sfax, as well as in Sidi Bouzid, are ongoing. Police has been using tear gas to disperse the demonstrators. 

17:47 GMT: Flyers calling for a general strike are being handed out by Popular Front party supporters, continuing to call for the dissolution of the NCA and the forming of a government to lead the country until a transition to peace is realized.

17:40 GMT: Prime Minister Ali Laaradeyh condemns at a press conference the incitement to violence and civil disobedience emanating from opposition camps.

17:12 GMT: At 21:00 local time, the protesters who gathered at the Ministry of Interior promise to march toward NCA headquarters in Bardo with the intention of holding a sit-in until the party is dissolved. Approximately 300 people are on the scene.

Chaos in front of the ministry of the interior now. Clashes between the #police and protesters. Teargas. #Tunisiapic.twitter.com/DKHUm0QYnN

— Farah (@Farah_SamT) July 25, 2013

17:05 GMT: Tunisia Live shares several videos of the protests following Brahmi's assassination, taking place in downtown Tunis, on Habib Bourgiba avenue. The protesters are singing Tunisia's national anthem, as the Brahmi's assassination coincides with the country's most important holiday - Republic Day.

16:24 GMT: Ennahda party leader Rached Gannouchi shares the view that “political assassinations happen in the most democratic places in the world, and even in the United States.”

16:15 GMT: An opposition leader, Beji Caid Essebssi - also the president and founder of Nidaa Tounis, condemns Brahmi's assassination in an interview with the France 24 news network. He says that the series of assassinations in Tunisia are unprecedented and that everyone who dares to speak out against the government is taking a fatal risk.

16:00 GMT: Tunisia Live reporter reveals plans for Brahmi's body to be taken to Charles Nicollehospital for an autopsy.

#brahmi's body is to be transported to Charles Nicolle for forensic review #tunisiapic.twitter.com/GhwyBJaoSW

— Zied Mhirsi (@zizoo) July 25, 2013

15:50 GMT: The police moves to block several streets in downtown Tunis leading to Bourgiba Avenue, as downtown hundreds continue calling for the fall of the government.

15:35 GMT: Two offices belonging to the ruling Ennahda party, together with another government building, were set on fire in two towns in Sidi Bouzid governorate, according to numerous local witness accounts.

15:10 GMT: The local Mosaique FM releases a video of the crime scene:

14:57 GMT: The country's largest labor union, the UGTT, has called for a strike to take place either Friday or the day of Brahmi's funeral, according to radio station Shems FM. Similar strikes took place after Belaid's assassination in February and in 2011, during the 'Tunisian Spring.'

14:40 GMT: Osama al Saghir of the Ennahda party told Tunisia Live that the assassination is also an "assassination of democracy," the freedom of speech, and an attack on the progress the country has been making. He also promised that the names of those guilty of opposition Chokri Belaid's murder in February will soon be revealed.

At the same time, Opposition party the Popular Front has released a Facebook statement on their page, calling “on the free citizens of Tunisia to regroup and demonstrate to show their loyalty to the martyr, the leader in Popular Front Mohamed Brahmi."

Opposition party the Popular Front has released a statement on their Facebook page, calling “on the free citizens of Tunisia to regroup and demonstrate to show their loyalty to the martyr, the leader in Popular Front Mohamed Brahmi," as well as the overthrow of the 'Muslim Brotherhood government', in reference to the recent removal of Egyptian former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi. Further to this, they continued calls for the dissolution of the NCA and the formation of a government for national salvation.

Assassinated Tunisian opposition politician Mohamed Brahmi's daughter Balkis (C) holds a Tunisian flag as she mourns his death in Tunis July 25, 2013. (Reuters / Zoubeir Souissi)

14:15 GMT: The Ministry of Interior building becomes the scene of a 300-400-strong protest, with demonstrators calling the ruling Ennahda party's President Rached Ghannouchi a murderer.

The opposition party Popular Front's members gathered outside the building downtown, calling for widespread action and the removal of the current government. They chanted "degage" ('Leave' in French) - a repeat of what happened during the 2011 Tunisian Spring.

The disgruntled protesters also informed Tunisia Live of their intention to extract Brahmi's body from the hospital and bring it to the demonstration.

14:00 GMT: Brahmi's hometown, Sidi Bouzid, saw hundreds gather outside, blocking roads and demanding justice in his murder investigation, while calling for the overthrow of the government and the disbanding of the NCA, local sources say.

13:57 GMT: The country's ruling party, Ennahda, releases the following statement on their Facebook page:

“‪‎Tunisia‬’s Presidency calls on all Tunisians not to fall into the trap laid by criminals to cause in-fighting and violence instead of national consensus and peaceful alternation, and calls on all the political class to be aware that those who treacherously shot Mohamed Brahmi wanted to target the entire democratic process and push the country into a cycle of violence and chaos.”

The party's leader, Rached Gannouchi releases his own statement, calling for restraint on all sides, and for the government to urgently investigate the incident and bring the criminals who carried out the assassination to justice:

“We heard, with immense sadness and shock, the news of the assassination of politician and member of the national constituent assembly Mohamed Brahmi, today. We condemn this cowardly and despicable crime. We pray for the soul of martyr Mohamed Brahmi and present our sincere condolences to his family, praying that God grants them patience.

“We call on the government and the interior ministry to urgently arrest those who committed this crime and reveal those behind them who have targeted the stability of the country.

“We further call on all political parties to show responsibility and restraint at this sensitive time.”

13:45 GMT: A member of the Worker's Party, Hataib Baraketi, shared his reaction on Brahmi's murder to Tunisia Live, saying the following:

“This is the second assassination six months after the killing of Chokri Belaid and still the ministries and the government have not revealed the identity of the killers.”

Because the assassination took place shortly after speeches on harmony and agreement, given by the president, prime minister and speaker of the NCA, Baraketi added that the incident "shows that the discourse does not reflect reality." The speeches were given today as part of the commemorating of Republic Day - a declaration of the Republic of Tunisia.

Baraketi also added, however, that the murder did not cause him any surprise, because "we have been reading calls on Facebook for the murder of opposition figures for weeks by people who claim they are defending legitimacy. When you kill people, what legitimacy are you talking about?”

Forensic inspectors examine the car of Tunisian opposition politician Mohamed Brahmi, who was shot dead outside his home, in Tunis July 25, 2013.(Reuters / Zoubeir Souissi)

13:20 GMT: Brahmi's wife has accused 'terrorists' of her husband's death, speaking to the local Mosaique FM:

“He died as a martyr to his opinion and position... he was killed by a terrorist gang.”

“I, and my children, have lost him,” she added.

The wife and daughter of #brahmi are accusing #ennahda of the murder of their husband and father #tunisiapic.twitter.com/eeHnasRaRd

— Zied Mhirsi (@zizoo) July 25, 2013

His pre-teen daughter, meanwhile remembers how her father got a telephone call very shortly before running outside towards his car, where he was gunned down. She said that he didn't want to leave the house, but the call appeared to be an emergency one.

The country's former Prime MInister Hamadi Jebali also spoke to the radio station, saying that
“the assassination is a conspiracy and a clear message that there are sides insisting on bringing the country into a critical situation.”

13:10 GMT: Speaker of the National Constituent Assembly Mustapha Ben Jaafar has announced at a press conference that “protection will be given to political figures, especially those in the public eye” and that "we will achieve the goals that the people have sent us here for."

He has also announced that Friday will be a national day of mourning.

12:55 GMT: Leader of the Popular Front party, Ahmed Seddik gives the following statement to local radio station Mosaique FM: “Ennahdha party is a failure, they did not reveal Chokri Belaid’s murder and they are not able to stop the series of political assassinations."

12:50 GMT:"This is the biggest catastrophe that could happen in Tunisia. We have now had a series of political assassinations of anyone with a different, loud voice,” said fellow opposition deputy Najla Bourriel, a member of the Democratic Bloc, to local news portal Tunisia Live.

12:30 GMT: Protesters clash with police in front of Tunisia's Ministry of Interior. Police use tear gas to disperse them.