Thousands took to the streets Saturday for the funeral of an assassinated leftist opposition leader, the second such murder since February, as tensions soared at protests against Tunisia’s Islamist-led government.
After the funeral, protesters marched on the National Assembly and clashed with riot police who fired tear gas to disperse them, and an opposition MP was injured by a blow to the head, an AFP correspondent said.
Draped in the red-white Tunisian flag, Mohamed Brahmi’s coffin was saluted by soldiers as the cortege left his home in the Tunis neighbourhood of Ariana for El-Jellaz cemetery.
Emotions ran high as supporters of Brahmi, who included members of his family, lifted the coffin to their shoulders before placing it on a military vehicle under armed escort.
A military helicopter overflew the capital as a sea of flags fluttered among the crowd waiting for the funeral procession along Habib Bourguiba Avenue, epicentre of the 2011 Arab Spring born in Tunisia.
Slogans vowing they will “avenge” Brahmi rose from the sea of mourners.
Police deployed reinforcements for the funeral attended by some 10,000 mourners, according to police estimates. Journalists gave a higher number of 15,000-20,000.
“Allahu akbar! (God is greatest). There is no God but Allah and martyrdom is his friend,” mourners cried out at El-Jellaz cemetery.
Army chief of staff General Mohamed Salah Hamdi read the eulogy and an imam prayed, but there were no representatives from the ruling Islamist Ennahda party which the family blames for Brahmi’s murder.
His widow Mbarka, who wore a headscarf, made the V-for-victory sign.
“The people want the fall of the regime,” and “Ennahda terrorist gang,” the crowd shouted, before falling silent for the national anthem.
The coffin was then lowered into a grave in the “martyrs'” sector of the cemetery next to that of slain fellow leftist politician Chokri Belaid, in accordance with his wishes.
After the funeral youths demanding “the fall of the government today!” marched to the National Assembly and hurled rocks and other projectiles at anti-riot police dispersed them with tear-gas.
But the protesters returned in a bid to stage a sit-in outside the parliament building and clashed again with police, as far-left MP Mongi Rahoui, who had joined the protest, was hit on the head with a club and rushed to hospital.
Overnight 42 opposition MPs announced they were pulling out of the assembly, demanding parliament be dissolved and a government of national unity set up.
Brahmi, 58, was shot dead outside his home on Thursday with the same weapon used to gun down Belaid in February, Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou said.
Hours before the funeral, a bomb exploded near a police post in the port of Tunis on Saturday, damaging a police jeep but causing no injuries, the interior ministry said.
A resident said the blast, the first known attack of its kind against a military vehicle in Tunisia, slightly wounded a policeman and caused panic among some residents of La Goulette district.
The bombing comes a day after a general strike called by the powerful General Union of Tunisian Labour (UGTT) and an anti-government demonstration during which one person was killed.
Brahmi was an MP with the leftist and nationalist Popular Movement but on July 7 quit the party he founded, saying it had been infiltrated by Islamists.
The state prosecutor’s office said an autopsy found Brahmi had been hit by 14 bullets and authorities blamed extremists with links to Al-Qaeda.
Balkis Brahmi, 19, one of Brahmi’s five children, told AFP he had been killed by two men in black on a motorbike.
Ennahda chief Rached Ghannouchi, with his movement accused of connivance in the two political killings over the past six months, has said Brahmi’s murder was a “catastrophe” for Tunisia and that those responsible wanted to stir civil war.
The UN human rights office has urged official restraint in the face of public anger.
Images by Your Middle East’s managing editor Adam Hedengren.