Rebellion against Ennahda rises from under dome of Tunisia constituent assembly

New chapter in Islamists’ rule

TUNIS - Some 42 deputies decided to withdraw from the National Constituent Assembly (NCA), Nidaa Tounes Movement member Khemaies Ksila announced on Friday.
"They also decided to stage an open sit-in as of Saturday in front of the NCA till its dissolution and fall of the government," he said at a news conference.
These deputies belong to the Republican Party, El-Massar, Al-Moubadara, Nidaa Tounes, Afek Tounes, People's Front, Democratic Alliance in addition to some independents.
In a statement signed by these deputies following the assassination of People's Movement Co-ordinator-General and NCA Deputy Mohamed Brahmi, they claim the formation of a national salvation government led by an independent national personality, and whose members will not stand for any electoral event and entrust finishing off the Constitution to a committee of experts before submitting it to a referendum as soon as possible.
This action, the deputies assert, should meet the people's will and contribute to save the country and ensure success of the second transitional phase to avoid the risk of an institutional void.
Already Friday, one person was killed during anti-government demonstrations triggered by the assassination of Brahmi, and the Islamist regime was gearing up for other days of tension.
Brahmi was killed with the same weapon used to gun down Belaid, Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou said.
"The first elements of the investigation show the implication of Boubaker Hakim, a Salafist extremist," said Jeddou.
Paris-born Hakim, 30, was a member of radical Sunni Muslim Salafist movement Ansar al-Sharia, which officials have previously linked to Al-Qaeda, he added.
Hakim was already wanted in Tunisia for kidnapping and arms trafficking, the minister said.
Public security chief Mustapha Taieb Ben Amor named 14 radical Islamist suspects -- including four behind bars -- implicated in the two political killings.
"The suspects are radical extremists, and some of them belong to Ansar al-Sharia," the main Salafist group in Tunisia, Ben Jeddou said.
Brahmi, 58, was gunned down outside his home in the Tunis suburb of Ariana by two gunmen.
He was an MP with the leftist and nationalist Popular Movement but quit the party he founded on July 7 saying it had been infiltrated by Islamists.
The UGTT called Friday's general strike in protest at "terrorism, violence and murders", while national airline Tunisair and some European carriers cancelled flights to Tunis.
The state prosecutor's office said an autopsy found that Brahmi had been hit by 14 bullets.
Balkis Brahmi, 19, one of Brahmi's five children, said he had been killed by two men in black on a motorbike.
"At around midday, we heard gunfire and my father crying with pain. We rushed out -- my brother, mother and I -- to find his body riddled with bullets at the wheel of his car parked in front of the house," she said.
As news of the killing spread, angry protesters took to the streets in both Tunis and Sidi Bouzid, Brahmi's hometown.
And on Friday, one demonstrator died in the central town of Gafsa, after being hit on the head by a tear gas cannister fired by police.
Ennahda chief Rached Ghannouchi said on Thursday Brahmi's killing was a "catastrophe" for the country and said those responsible wanted to drag the country into civil war.
The presidency declared Friday a day of national mourning.
But political tension has been rising in Tunisia, with the launch of its own version of the Tamarod (rebellion) movement in Egypt that led to the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi on July 3.
Beji Caid Essebsi, head of Nidaa Tounes, had said Ennahda was to blame for Brahmi's assassination because it had failed to identify Belaid's killers.
"There has not been any serious judicial action," he said.
The UN human rights office urged official restraint in the face of public anger.
"We urge the authorities in Tunisia to take great care not to inflame the situation further with excessive use of force and to respect the right of people to protest peacefully," spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva.