Tunisia: Flights Cancelled, Police Crackdowns as Protests Continue Following Assassination of Shokri Belaid
Flights to and from Tunisia canceled amid protest over Belaid murder
People carry the coffin of Tunisia’s late opposition leader Chokri Belaid during his funeral procession in the Djebel Jelloud district, a suburb of Tunis, February 8, 2013.
The Tunis-Carthage International Airport has been shut down and all flights to and from the Tunisian capital have been canceled due to demonstrations against the murder of leftist opposition leader Chokri Belaid.
Airport authorities said on Friday that the airport was closed amid a general strike called by the General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT) to protest the murder of Belaid, a lawyer and critic of the country’s ruling Ennahda Party.
“All the departures and all the arrivals have been canceled for the whole of Friday,” said the airport’s information service, adding that the cancelation included both domestic and international flights.
Some 3,000 Tunisians gathered outside a public building in the capital’s southern suburbs of Djebel Jelloud on Friday to attend Belaid’s funeral, who was fatally shot by a gunman outside his home in Tunis on February 6.
The army sent vehicles and troops along the Habib Bourguiba Avenue of the capital, where the uprising in 2011 ousted dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Tens of thousands of people are expected to demonstrate for Belaid’s murder after Friday prayers.
Belaid’s killing has triggered massive protests in Tunis and the mining region of Gafsa. His family has accused Ennahda of being behind the killing.
Following the explosion of public anger over the murder, Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali said in a televised address on Wednesday that he would dissolve the cabinet and form a new government of technocrats.
However, Ennahda’s parliamentary leader Sahbi Atig said on Thursday that the premier’s decision was rejected by his bloc of lawmakers. “The head of the government took the decision without consulting the (ruling) coalition or the Ennahda movement.”
Tunisia police fire tear gas at protesters in Gafsa
Tunisian police use tear gas to disperse protesters rallying after the funeral of assassinated opposition leader Shokri Belaid in Tunis, February 8, 2013.
Tunisian police have fired tear gas to disperse anti-government protesters in the central town of Qafsa as Tunisians bury the slain opposition figure, Shokri Belaid.
Police clashed with furious protesters who were throwing stones and petrol bombs in the mining town on Friday as rallies swept Tunisian cities.
Tunisian police also used tear gas to disperse protesters following the funeral of the slain secular figure in the capital, Tunis.
Tunisia plunged into a political chaos after Belaid was fatally shot outside his home in Tunis on February 6.
Belaid’s assassination triggered violent demonstrations across the North African country, with the headquarters of the ruling Ennahda party attacked in more than a dozen cities.
The opposition accuses Ennahda of involvement in the killing. However, the party’s leader Rashid al-Ghannushi condemned the act and rejected the allegations.
A general strike is currently taking effect across the Arab country with schools, shops, and banks all shut down. All flights to and from Tunisia have also been cancelled.