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Tunisia Braces for Funeral of Assassinated Opposition Leader

Tunisia's largest labor union has called for a national protest strike Friday, to coincide with the funeral for assassinated opposition party leader Chokri Belaid.

The strike call was announced late Thursday by the General Union for Tunisian Workers, capping a day of political turmoil in Tunis that saw the country's dominant Islamist party reject a plan by its own prime minister to form a new government. Riot police and protesters also clashed in the capital for a second straight day.

Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali announced late Wednesday his plan to dismiss the current government, after rioting erupted in the capital in response to the Belaid assassination. He said the new government would consist of technocrats without political affiliations. The announcement was met with widespread praise by opposition parties.

But Thursday, the second-in-command of Mr. Jebali's Ennahda party publicly rejected the plan, saying the prime minister had failed to consult senior party officials. The rejection highlights divisions within the party, which rules in an uneasy coalition with secularists.

Belaid's family and secularist supporters blame Ennahda for complicity in the assassination, but have offered no evidence to support their assertion. There has been no claim of responsibility.



Authorities say Belaid, an outspoken critic of the government, was shot at close range as he left his home in Tunis Wednesday by a gunman who fled on the back of a motorcycle.

The Associated Press says Tunisia's chief prosecutor witnessed Belaid's autopsy late Wednesday. Three bullets were removed from the body, as well as pieces of glass from the car window he was shot through.

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