TUNIS: Clashes between Islamists and secular opponents in the southern Tunisian town of Tataouine Thursday left a secular politician dead, his party and witnesses said.
A party official told AFP that Lotfi Nakd, coordinator for the opposition party Nida Touns (Call of Tunisia), died after being beaten by pro-government demonstrators who attacked his office. The Interior Ministry confirmed the violence but said Nakd had died of a heart attack.
The violence broke out during a march organized by a group of Islamists close to the Ennahda party, which leads Tunisia’s Islamist government. Protesters chanted slogans against Nida Touns, accusing it of being close to ousted leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, a resident said.
The Islamist group, the Association for the Protection of the Revolution, was passing the building of the local Agricultural Union, which is headed by the local representative of Nida Touns, when the clashes began.
“The coordinator of Nida Touns in Tataouine, Lotfi Nakd, was killed after he was attacked,” a Call of Tunisia official Khemais Ksila told Reuters by phone. A resident who gave his name as Samil Smida said knives and stones were used in the violence.
“The clashes broke out between Islamists and some people from Nida Touns,” he said. “The Islamists were chanting slogans against Nida Touns, calling them liars, telling them to leave. Those inside reacted, throwing stones and it all began.”
The state-run TAP news agency said nine people were injured. A leader of the secular Al Joumhouri , Iyed Dahmhani, called on the interior minister to resign after the events.
Tunisia, where an uprising against secular strongman Ben Ali was the first of last year’s Arab Spring revolts, is now ruled by an Islamist-led government that has promised not to impose strict religious rules and to respect women’s rights.
Liberals say Islamist policies threaten human rights in a country once seen as a beacon of Arab secularism.