BEIRUT

Middle East

Suspected assassin of Tunisia's Belaid killed: minister

  • Tunisian police stand guard near a house in Raoued, a northern suburb of the capital, in an attempt to arrest a group of suspected militants hiding there February 4, 2014. (REUTERS/Anis Mili)

TUNIS: The suspected assassin of Tunisian opposition figure Chokri Belaid, whose death almost exactly a year ago sparked political turmoil, has been killed in a police raid, the interior minister said Tuesday.

The murder of Belaid, who was a virulent critic of the Islamist party then in power, was a turning point in Tunisia that plunged the country into turmoil from which it has only started to emerge with the adoption last month of a new constitution.

The National Guard killed "seven heavily-armed terrorists. Some of them have been identified ... Kamel Gadhgadhi was found to be among them," Lotfi Ben Jeddou told reporters.

The authorities had previously named Gadhgadhi as the alleged killer of Belaid, who was gunned down outside his home in the capital on February 6, 2013.

"It's the best present that we could give the Tunisians," said Ben Jeddou.

The National Guard launched their operation on Monday afternoon, surrounding a house in the Tunis suburb of Raoued after receiving a tip-off that "heavily armed" militants were holed up there.

A gun battle then followed, which lasted until mid-morning on Tuesday, and left one policeman dead in addition to the militants killed.

At the same press conference, ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Aroui showed pictures taken inside the house where the bloody siege took place.

"Here is a picture of the terrorist Kamel Gadhgadhi. He was carrying a grenade belt," Aroui said, adding that the house was full of explosives and weapons, and that the group was probably preparing to carry out an attack.

The killing of Belaid and prominent opposition MP Mohamed Brahmi months later led the opposition to accuse the Ennahda party -- a moderate Islamist movement -- of failing to rein in jihadists suppressed under long-ruling dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Ennahda rose to power through Tunisia's first-ever free election in 2011 after Ben Ali was toppled by an uprising that ignited the Arab Spring.

 
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Summary

The suspected assassin of Tunisian opposition figure Chokri Belaid, whose death almost exactly a year ago sparked political turmoil, has been killed in a police raid, the interior minister said Tuesday.

The killing of Belaid and prominent opposition MP Mohamed Brahmi months later led the opposition to accuse the Ennahda party -- a moderate Islamist movement -- of failing to rein in jihadists suppressed under long-ruling dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Ennahda rose to power through Tunisia's first-ever free election in 2011 after Ben Ali was toppled by an uprising that ignited the Arab Spring.


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