Tunisia Minister Says Islamist Sought After Assassination

Tunisia’s Interior Ministry said Islamic extremists killed secular opposition leader Mohamed Brahmi yesterday with the same semi-automatic weapon used to assassinate a political ally earlier this year.

“This information surprised us,” Lotfi Ben Jeddou told reporters in Tunis today. Boubaker Hakim, a Salafist radical accused of smuggling arms from Libya, is being sought in connection with both killings, he said.

Ben Jeddou urged hundreds of opposition supporters protesting in Tunis not to attack government buildings and to avoid violence. Most flights in and out of the country were grounded today while many shops and public buildings in the capital were shuttered.

Brahmi, secretary-general of the nationalist People’s Movement party, will be buried tomorrow at the Jalaz cemetery close to the grave of Cukri Beleid, who was assassinated in February.

President Moncef Marzouki ordered preparations for a state funeral amid concern Brahmi’s death could deepen a rift between secularists and Islamists. The shooting of Beleid sent thousands into the streets in protest, causing a political crisis that brought down Islamist Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali.

The government blamed Beleid’s assassination on Islamic extremists while the opposition said the authorities were responsible.

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