Sunday, February 09, 2014

Suspect Arrested In Murder of Tunisian Leftist MP

Suspect arrested in murder of Tunisian MP: Ministry

AFP, Sunday 9 Feb 2014

Tunisian security forces arrested a suspect in the murder of opposition politician Mohamed Brahmi after a fierce gunbattle during an overnight raid on a militant hideout, the interior ministry's spokesman said Sunday.

Brahimi was the second of two opposition politicians to have been assassinated last year by suspected jihadists as Islamist violence rocked the North African country, which was the birthplace of the Arab Spring revolutions in 2011.

The security forces "surrounded a house (near the capital Tunis) where a terrorist group had holed up. Following a sustained exchange of fire, four elements were arrested," interior ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Aroui told AFP.

"Among them is Hmed el-Melki, alias 'Somali,' one of the elements implicated in the assassination of the martyr Mohamed Brahmi," he said, adding weapons were seized during the raid.

"The interior ministry stresses that it was a successful operation," the spokesman said without revealing the identities of the other suspects.

The announcement came after the government said Tuesday that the suspected Islamist assassin of opposition politician Chokri Belaid had been killed in a police raid.

Gunmen killed Belaid on February 6 and Brahmi on July 25, both of them outside their homes.

Authorities blamed the murders on the Ansar Al-Sharia, a jihadist outfit accused of links to Al-Qaeda, but the group never claimed responsibility for those or any other attacks.

Belaid was a charismatic leftist politician and virulent critic of the Islamist party Ennahda then in power. His murder triggered massive anti-government protests and a crisis from which Tunisia has only recently started to emerge.

The two political assassinations eventually forced Ennahda to relinquish power in January in the face of accusations from the mainly secular opposition that it had failed to tackle a surge of Islamist extremism since the Arab Spring revolution of 2011.

Ennahda won Tunisia's first free elections in October 2011, following the ouster of president Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in an uprising.

Speaking before the police raid on Monday, Belaid's widow Basma Khalfaoui accused Ennahda of hiding key documents in the murder inquiry and said she was expecting strong measures from a government of independents that replaced the Islamist-led administration late last month.

"We don't know anything (about what really happened). All scenarios are possible," she told AFP.

Brahmi's widow, speaking Saturday during a rally marking the first anniversary of Belaid's funeral, accused the authorities of having "done everything to wipe out the traces of the crime".

http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/93772.aspx


Tunisia marks year since opposition leader's murder

AFP, Thursday 6 Feb 2014

Tunisians mark on Thursday 12 turbulent months since the assassination of opposition politician Chokri Belaid, and his family still want to know what happened despite the alleged assassin being shot dead this week.

The charismatic leftist and virulent critic of the Islamist party Ennahda, then in power, was gunned down outside his Tunis home on February 6, 2013.

The assassination was the first of two by suspected jihadists, and came amid the Islamist violence rocking the country -- and the region -- since the 2011 revolution that toppled a decades-old dictatorship and touched off the Arab Spring.

It triggered massive anti-government protests and a political crisis from which Tunisia has only recently started to emerge, with the adoption of a consensus constitution last month.

The authorities blamed the killing on members of Ansar al-Sharia, a Salafist group suspected of links to Al-Qaeda that has since been designated a terrorist organisation but says it rejects violence.

On Tuesday, Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou announced that Kamel Gadhgadhi, Belaid's alleged assassin, was among seven suspects killed during a 20-hour seige of a house in the Raoued district of the capital.

"(It's) the best present that we could give Tunisians" on the first anniversary of Belaid's murder, said Ben Jeddou.

But the family of the slain politician, which blamed the death on the Ennahda party, spurned the minister's comments.

"He can keep this present; killing a man is not a present," Belaid's brother, Abdelmajid, told AFP.

"We didn't want Gadhgadhi to be killed and we are certainly not celebrating his death... We wanted him to be fairly tried," he said.

"We want to know the whole truth. Gadhgadhi was not alone. There are other parties implicated and we hope they will be captured so that the truth is revealed."

Some newspapers called the militant's death a turning point in the fight against armed jihadists. Others, including popular French daily La Presse, were less confident.

"The glass is half empty and there is... unfinished business," it said.

A group of lawyers will hold a press conference Thursday morning on the state of the investigation into Belaid's murder, with a candlelit vigil to take place later on Habib Bourguiba Avenue in central Tunis.

And a demonstration is planned at Belaid's grave Saturday before a march into the city centre, to mark the anniversary of the politician's funeral procession, which tens of thousands attended in what became a mass anti-Ennahda rally.

Belaid's murder was followed by an intensification of violence between security forces and jihadist groups.

Some 20 soldiers and police were killed last year, mainly in the Chaambi mountain region along the border with Algeria, and two suicide bombers targeted tourist resorts on the coast.

The political crisis, which deepened following the July 25 murder of another opposition politician, MP Mohamed Brahmi, threatened to derail Tunisia's transition, amid rising social unrest, economic malaise and administrative deadlock.

But last month, following a hard-fought agreement between Ennahda and the opposition, the national assembly approved a new constitution, Ennahda stepped down and a technocratic government was sworn in tasked with leading the country to fresh elections.

Some commentators have said it took the two assassinations and the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi in Egypt to persuade Ennahda, which had won Tunisia's first free election in October 2011, to cede power.

On Friday a ceremony is planned to celebrate the adoption of the new constitution, with French President Francois Hollande and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy among those due to attend.

This story was edited by Ahram Online.

http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/93571.aspx


Seven militants, policeman killed in Tunisia raid

Reuters, Tuesday 4 Feb 2014

Seven Islamist militants and a Tunisian policeman were killed in a gun battle after police raided a house in Tunis where weapons, explosives and suicide bomb belts were found, a security source said.

The clash broke out late on Monday when police surrounded a house in Raoued, a northern suburb of the capital, in an attempt to arrest a group of suspected militants hiding there.

"They had suicide bomb belts and explosive material and they were well-armed," Interior Ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Aroui said, without naming the group to which the men belonged.

Raoued is a poor district close to luxury beach resorts just outside the capital. Heavily armed counter-terrorism police patrolled near the whitewashed house where the fighting took place, its outer wall pockmarked with dozens of bullet holes.

Since last year, Tunisian armed forces have cracked down on the hardline Islamist Ansar al-Sharia faction, which Washington has listed as a terrorist organisation and whose leader has declared allegiance to Al-Qaeda.

Tunisia formally celebrates a new constitution on Friday, with French President Francois Hollande and other dignitaries invited to the ceremony to mark the North African country's progress to democracy.

Three years after its uprising inspired revolts across the Arab world, Tunisia is led by a new caretaker government that took over after the moderate Islamist Ennahda party stepped down in a compromise to end a political crisis.

The threat of Islamist militancy is among the new government's main challenges. A suicide bombing at a beach resort late last year - the first such attack in a decade - underscored Tunisia's vulnerability to jihadi violence.

Tunisian militants have used the turmoil in neighbouring Libya to get weapons and training. Some have travelled to Syria to fight for Islamist rebel groups in the civil war there.

http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/93422.aspx

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