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Tunisia to Form New Government as Country Reels From Killing

  • VOA News

Protesters gather on Tunis' main avenue after a Tunisian opposition leader critical of the Islamist-led government was gunned down as he left home, February 6, 2013.

Protesters gather on Tunis' main avenue after a Tunisian opposition leader critical of the Islamist-led government was gunned down as he left home, February 6, 2013.

Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali says he will form a new technocrat government without political affiliations, in response to the murder of a prominent opposition leader.

Jebali announced the move Wednesday on national television as thousands of protesters clashed with police in the capital in response to the murder of Chokri Belaid, a leading member of a leftist coalition formed last year. As clashes escalated, protesters set fire to the headquarters of the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, which rules in an uneasy coalition with secularists.

The prime minister said his new ministers will have a mandate limited to managing the affairs of the country until elections are held, and said those polls will take place as soon as possible.

Belaid, with the Popular Front, was shot as he was leaving his home in Tunis. No arrests have been reported.

Hours later, the Popular Front said it is pulling out of the constituent assembly charged with writing a new constitution. A spokesman said the group will call for a general strike to protest Belaid's murder.

Other demonstrations continued across Tunisia - including in Sidi Bouzid, birthplace of the Arab Spring uprisings - in scenes reminiscent of the country's largely peaceful revolution two years ago.

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki canceled his planned trip to a summit in Cairo because of the killing.

Speaking before the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Marzouki said his country has many enemies who want the revolution to fail.

An array of politicians denounced Belaid's death, including Ennahda party chief Rached Ghannouchi, who said the killers want a "bloodbath" in Tunisia.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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