Four Radicals Held over Belaid’s Murder
Assassin still at large in Tunisia
TUNIS, Asharq Al-Awsat—Four radical Salafist Muslims have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the murder of a Tunisian opposition leader, authorities in Tunis revealed yesterday.
According to Tunisian state television, four men were detained on suspicion of being involved in the assassination of the Tunisian veteran socialist politician Chokri Belaid, while the perpetrator is still being pursued by security forces, Tunisian Prime Minister-designate and Interior Minister Ali Laaraiedh said in a news conference.
“The case is still under investigation; as a ministry we adhere to what the law says on the secrecy of the investigation…. We managed to limit suspicions to a group of individuals,” Laaraiedh stated.
He added that the murder scene was “under surveillance days before the crime” by the group that carried out the attack. Four suspects have been detained, and one admitted to “driving the killer” on the day of the attack to the building where Belaid lived and where he was shot.
“The perpetrator is known and is currently being pursued by the security forces,” Laaraiedh added. He said that they belonged to a “hardline religious current,” adding that their ages varied between twenty-six and thirty-four years, and that they were Tunisians.
Laaraiedh maintained that the investigation was ongoing and thus no further details could be revealed. Belaid’s daylight killing on February 6 sparked deadly street protests and strikes and exposed the widening fissures between the ruling Islamists and liberals.
The assassination threw Tunisia into its worst political crisis since the revolution two years ago that ousted strongman Zine El-Abidine ben Ali. The crisis also led to the resignation of Tunisian premier Hamadi Jebali, after his own Ennahda party dismissed his proposal to form a government of technocrats.
Laaraiedh, also an Ennahda member, was named on Friday to replace Jebali. He has until March 8 to form a new government, which he has vowed will be “for all Tunisians.”