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Demonstrators in Tunisia have reacted angrily to the assassination of Chokra Belaid, the opposition leader who was gunned down in front of his house on Wednesday morning.

As his body was taken to the mortuary some of the thousands who gathered around the ambulance made accusations against the government.

One demonstrator said: “These are Gannouchi’s ((Ennahda party leader) militias. People must know that the criminals are directly linked to the head of Ennahda party.”

Another added: “This government has no other choice than to resign. Otherwise, the Tunisian people will topple it. They must step down.”

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, who was on a visit to the European parliament in Strasbourg, condemned the killing:

“This is a heinous murder of a political leader who I know well, who has been my friend for a long time, Chokri Belaid. This is a political assassination, knowing today, at this time, they knew I would be speaking to you. It is a threat, it is a letter, but it won’t be received, we refuse, we reject this letter, we reject the message and we will continue to expose the enemies of the revolution.”

The President warned a month ago that the rising tensions between Islamists and secularists could lead to a “civil war”.

He has now cut short his international visits to return home and appeal for calm.

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