Tunisian opposition member Mohamed Brahmi was shot dead in the capital Tunis on Thursday, six months after the murder of another secular politician sparked a political crisis. Thousands of secularists have poured out onto the streets in protest.
Brahmi was a member of the nationalist and secular People’s Movement party, which has two seats in the National Constituent Assembly. A gunman reportedly shot him eleven times at close range and fled in a car. Brahmi’s family witnessed the assassination.
Brahmi was declared dead upon arrival in hospital.
“He died as a martyr to his opinion and position – he was killed by a terrorist gang,” his wife told local radio station Mosaique FM, placing the blame at the hands of the ruling Islamist Ennahda party.
Spontaneous protests broke out on an already charged day that officially marks the foundation of the republic, a significant date for secularists.
“Down with the rule of the Islamists!” the crowd chanted as it gathered outside key government buildings, the hospital to which Brahmi was taken and the opposition headquarters.
Friday will be declared a national day of mourning, announced Mustapha Ben Jaafar, the speaker of the National Constituent Assembly.
In February, the assassination of another secular political leader Chokri Belaid led to a political crisis in the country. Belaid was believed to be a target of radical Islamists, and secularist demonstrations following his brazen assassination brought down the Islamist government of Hamadi Jebali.
Brahmi’s party is part of the secular coalition in the National Constituent Assembly, which is attempting to draft a constitution that will satisfy both Islamists and secularists.
“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.
Tunisia has been bedeviled by instability following the overthrow of authoritarian leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011, a move that set off the Arab Spring later that year.