Tunisia arrests suspect in political killing that sparked unrest

Tunisian authorities have arrested an Islamist extremist in the Feb. 6 assassination of opposition leader Chokri Belaid, an event that led to the resignation of Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali.

TUNIS, Tunisia  A hardline Islamist has been arrested in connection with the killing of a Tunisian opposition politician whose death earlier this month touched off protests across the country, a security source said Monday.

Tunisia was plunged into political crisis when the secular opposition politician Chokri Belaid was gunned down outside his house on Feb. 6, igniting the biggest street protests since the overthrow of strongman Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali two years ago.

"The police arrested a Salafist suspected of killing Belaid," the source said without giving more details.

Last year, Salafist groups prevented several concerts and plays from taking place in Tunisian cities, saying they violated Islamic principles. Salafists also ransacked the U.S. Embassy in September, during international protests over an Internet video.

Tunisian radio station Express FM cited a senior security official as saying police had arrested three Salafists, including a police officer, in connection with Belaid's killing.

Abd Majid Belaid, brother of the victim, said he could neither confirm nor deny the report. The Ministry of Interior and Justice was not available for comment.

Following Belaid's killing Tunisia's first such political assassination in a decade Hamadi Jebali resigned as prime minister after he failed to form a cabinet of technocrats to take Tunisia to elections in a bid to restore calm.

Tunisia's President Moncef Marzouki has asked Interior Minister Ali Larayedh to form a new government.

The so-called Jasmine Revolution that toppled Ben Ali in January 2011 was the first of the Arab Spring revolutions.


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