Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Mrders fuel six months of political crisis

PHOTO | FETHI BELAID Tunisian protesters gather on August 4, 2013 in Tunis in front of the Constituent Assembly headquarters against Tunisia's Islamist government in Tunis.

PHOTO | FETHI BELAID Tunisian protesters gather on August 4, 2013 in Tunis in front of the Constituent Assembly headquarters against Tunisia's Islamist government in Tunis.  AFP

By AFP

TUNIS

Tunisia has been plunged into a deep political crisis since the assassination last month of opposition leader Mohamed Brahmi.

Authorities say he was killed with the same weapon used to gun down a fellow opposition politician, MP Chokri Belaid, in February.

The families of both men have accused the moderate Islamic party Ennahda which hads a governing coalition of being implicated in the deaths, but the authorities said in July that the investigation pointed to extremists with links to Al-Qaeda.

Here is a timeline of the political crisis unleashed by the two deaths:

--2013--

- February 6: Prominent opposition leader Belaid shot dead, sparking deadly protests and provoking a political crisis.

- February 8: Tunisia comes to a near standstill as a general strike called by Tunisia's main union, the General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT), takes effect in protest at the political violence.

Tens of thousands of mourners join the funeral of Belaid in a southern Tunis suburb, encircled by armed soldiers.

- February 19: Prime minister Hamadi Jebali resigns after failing to form a non-partisan government to end the political crisis.

- March 14: Jebali is replaced by Ennahda's Ali Larayedh.

- May 19: Clashes erupt between radical Islamists and police after the Salafist movement Ansar al-Sharia tells its followers to gather "in large numbers" near Tunis for its annual congress, defying a government ban.

- July 25: Brahmi is shot dead outside his home near Tunis. His family blames Ennahda, which denies the charge. Hundreds demonstrate in Tunis and in the provinces, notably in Sidi Bouzid, Brahmi's birthplace.

- July 26: Tunisia marks a day of mourning for Brahmi, with a general strike bringing Tunis to near standstill. The authorities say the assassination was the work of Boubaker Hakim, a member of a radical Sunni Muslim Salafist movement.

- July 29: Larayedh says the government will stay in office and calls a general election for December 17, as protests demand his administration's ouster.

- July 30: Thousands of pro-and anti-Islamist demonstrators hold rival demonstrations in the Tunis suburbs. Since the assassination of Brahmi, supporters and opponents of the government have rallied each evening after the end of the Ramadan daily fast to demonstrate in Tunis and the provinces.

- August 2: The army announces a "huge" air and ground assault against armed militants in the area around Mount Chaambi along the border with Algeria.

- August 4: Tens of thousands of Tunisians march in support of the government as opposition protesters renew calls for the administration to step down.

- August 6: Islamist ruling party chief Rached Ghannouchi says the government will not step down under pressure. The elected National Constituent Assembly suspended until the government and opposition open negotiations, its speaker Mustapha Ben Jaafar announces.

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