October 24, 2013
Police Deaths Delay Tunisia Crisis Talks
Tunisians are mourning seven policemen killed in a gun battle with suspected jihadists that has resulted in a new delay in long-awaited crisis talks between the country's main political forces.
The slain police were to be buried later Thursday in home towns around Tunisia, including in the central Sidi Bouzid region where Wednesday's clash broke out, amid rising anti-government sentiment.
In Kef, where one of the officers is to be buried, protesters torched the office of Tunisia's ruling Islamist party, Ennahda.
President Moncef Marzouki declared three days of mourning for the slain security officers.
In a brief televised statement, Prime Minister Ali Larayedh appeared to back away from comments made by his political allies to hand power to a caretaker government as part of a national dialogue brokered by the country's leading union ahead of fresh elections.
Ahead of the address, thousands of people in the capital protested on the second anniversary of elections that brought Mr. Larayedh's moderate Ennahda party to power. Protest organizers told reporters that Wednesday's demonstration was aimed at maintaining pressure on the government to keep its earlier resignation promise.
In September, Tunisia's powerful UGTT labor union, which has been mediating talks between the government and the opposition, said the ruling party had agreed to three weeks of negotiations, before yielding to a transitional administration and eventual elections.