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Clashes In Tunis At Funeral Of Opposition Leader

A protester, and riot police in the background, during the clashes Friday in Tunis.
A protester, and riot police in the background, during the clashes Friday in Tunis.

"Police and mourners clashed at the mass funeral on Friday of secular opposition leader Chokri Belaid, whose assassination has plunged Tunisia deeper into political crisis," Reuters writes.

According to the wire service, "braving chilly rain, at least 50,000 people turned out to honor Belaid in his home district of Jebel al-Jaloud in the capital, chanting anti-Islamist and anti-government slogans."

Correspondent Eleanor Beardsley, who is at the scene, tells our Newscast Desk that police have used teargas and clashed with young men outside the cemetery. The funeral, she reports, turned into an anti-government, anti-Islamist protest.

Emotions, Eleanor says, are as high as they were during the Arab Spring movement two years ago (which started in Tunisia). Protests then toppled Tunisia's longtime dictator. Now, the Islamist prime minister has dismissed the government and is forming a non-partisan technocratic government to rule until new elections are held.

The Associated Press adds that Belaid's assassination Wednesday "sparked days of rioting by his supporters, who hold the ruling Ennahda party complicit in his death. The nation was largely shut down Friday due to a general strike called by the labor unions in solidarity, and the national carrier Tunis Air canceled all its flights."

As al-Jazeera points out, "Tunisia has a long-established secular tradition which has been countered by the rise of one of the region's most powerful Islamist parties."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eleanor Beardsley reporting from Tunis

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