27 February 2013

Tunisia: Extremists Behind Belaid Slaying, New Premier Says

Tunis — Radical salafists are accused of killing opposition figure Chokri Belaid

Tunisia arrested four salafists in connection with the murder of opposition party leader Chokri Belaid, Prime Minister-designate Ali Larayedh said Tuesday (February 26th).

"One of them had confessed to accompanying the actual assassin to the vicinity of the building where they waited for the exit of Belaid, and then shot him," Larayedh said. "They both fled the scene after killing him."

"The killer has been identified and is known to security units who are in the process of tracking him down," he added.

At a press conference at the interior ministry headquarters, Larayedh said that the four suspects were all Tunisian, ranging from 26 to 34 years old.

"One of those arrested was formerly involved in a case for belonging to a gang which was preparing an assault on persons and properties. He was released after the revolution," he said.

He also stressed, "The issue is not over yet and the investigation is on-going by the anti-crime brigade and a judge."

Two suspects allegedly involved in the attack took part in a re-enactment of the killing outside Belaid's home on Tuesday under extraordinary security measures, including the closure of all roads leading to the crime scene.

Belaid's February 6th assassination plunged Tunisia into political turmoil, ultimately leading Hamadi Jebali to resign as prime minister. Larayedh has been tasked with forming a new government.

Parliamentarian Monji Rahoui of Belaid's Unified National Democratic Party is ready to see the killers held accountable.

"The Unified National Democratic Party is seeking, in light of the data made available to it, to take the case to the court of international justice," the MP added.

But Mouldi Ali Moujahid, president of the salafist Assala party, said he did "not accept charges made against salafists accusing them of the assassination of the deceased Chokri Belaid without evidence".

"I am not aware of any salafist participating in the assassination," he stressed. "We will wait until the end of the investigation and the disclosure of the names of the suspects to check whether they belonged to the salafist movement or not."

For its part, Ennahda issued a statement condemning the alleged killers.

"The perpetrators of the assassination are criminals and deserve severe punishment at the level of their crime, and all those involved in supporting or facilitating their activities are partners in crime," the Islamist party said.

Ennahda also criticised those who accused the ruling party of complicity in the attack, saying it reserved "the right to prosecute all those who charged it or charged its leaders with enticing and baseless accusations".

The movement also invited the youth of Tunisia "to adhere to the thinking and moderate approach of Islam which rejects excommunication, murders and slander".

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