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Tunisian opposition leader killed amid tensions

By The Associated Press

This article was published February 6, 2013 at 7:38 a.m.

— A Tunisian opposition leader critical of both the Islamist-led government and of violence by radical Muslims was gunned down as he left home Wednesday — the first assassination in post-revolutionary Tunisia.

The killing of Chokri Belaid, a 47-year-old lawyer, is likely to heighten tensions in the North African nation whose path from dictatorship to democracy has been seen as a model for the Arab world so far.

Belaid had been a fierce critic of Ennahda, the moderate Islamist party that dominates the government, claiming that it turns a blind eye to violence perpetrated by extremists against other parties. His family said Belaid regularly received death threats — the most recent Tuesday — but had refused to limit his high-profile activities.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khaled Tarrouch called the assassination a “terrorist act” and said the politician had been shot point-blank several times.

Thousands of people quickly gathered in the heart of the capital to protest in front of the Interior Ministry, holding the government responsible for the slaying. That is the same broad, tree-lined boulevard where weeks of anti-government protests two years ago ousted Tunisia’s long-time dictator — and the crowds Wednesday even chanted the same slogan: “The people want the fall of the regime!”

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