Middle East

Tunisia at near standstill as general strike takes effect

A Tunisian woman watches behind a national flag as mourners pour into Jebel Jelloud, a suburb of Tunis and hometown of assassinated leftist leader Chokri Belaid, on February 7, 2013 at a branch of the Party of Democratic Patriots (Arabic writing) which he headed. AFP PHOTO / FETHI BELAID

TUNIS: Tunis was at a near standstill Friday, with streets deserted, shops shut and public transport at a minimum as a general strike called by a powerful trade union after a leftist politician was murdered took effect.

The Tunis-Carthage airport was open but many flights were cancelled, a Tunisair official told AFP.

A few buses and trams ran in the near-empty streets but there were few passengers.

The strike was called by the 500,000-strong General Union of Tunisian Workers to coincide with the funeral of Chokri Belaid, a lawyer and vocal critic of the ruling Ennahda party who was shot dead outside his home Wednesday by a lone gunman.

The assassination of the popular opposition leader sparked two days of clashes across the country between police and opposition supporters, leaving scores injured and a policeman dead.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to take to the streets for the burial of Belaid after weekly prayers in the Muslim country, whose long-established secular tradition has been countered by the rise of one of the region's most powerful Islamist parties.





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