Tunisian opposition politician and assembly member Mohammed Brahmi was killed outside of his home on Thursday, local media reported.
“Mohammed Brahmi, general coordinator of the Popular Movement and member of the National Constituent Assembly, was shot dead outside his home in Ariana,” Watanya state television and the official TAP news agency reported.
According to Tunisian website Nawaat, Brahmi, 58, was shot 11 times while leaving his house in el-Ghazala, a northern suburb of the capital Tunis.
The unidentified assailants shot Brahmi point blank before fleeing by car or motorcycle, news website Kapitalis reported. Brahmi was transported to the hospital, the publication reported, although it remained unclear whether Brahmi died on the scene or at the hospital.
“He was riddled with bullets in front of his wife and children,” Mohsen Nabti, a fellow member of Brahmi’s small leftist movement, said in a tearful account aired on Tunisian radio.
Brahmi, a left-wing politician, had left the al-Shaab party earlier this month to found another political movement called al-Tayar al-Shaabi. He justified his resignation from his post as general secretary of al-Shaab, which he had also founded, claiming that it had been infiltrated by Islamists.
He was well known for his strong critiques of the ruling Islamist al-Nahda party.
Condemning the killing, lawyer Mabrouk Korchid told AFP that Brahmi was “assassinated in cold blood on the day that Tunisia is marking” the 56th anniversary of the republic’s declaration.
“He died as a martyr to his opinion and position,” Brahmi’s wife Mbarka told Mosaique FM, adding that he was killed “by a terrorist gang.”
“My children and I have lost him,” she said.
The leader of the ruling al-Nahda party, Rached Ghannouchi, issued a statement condemning the murder.
“We heard, with immense sadness and shock, the news of the assassination of politician and member of the national constituent assembly Mohammed Brahmi, today,” the statement read. “We call on the government and the interior ministry to urgently arrest those who committed this crime and reveal those behind them who have targeted the stability of the country.”
The murder sparked angry street protests in central Tunis and the top opposition figure’s birthplace of Sidi Bouzid where he served as MP, AFP correspondents said.
Protesters gathered outside of the Interior Ministry in Tunis upon hearing the news, website Tunisia Live reported. Police forces dispersed the demonstrators with tear gas.
“Tunisia is free, Brotherhood out!” angry demonstrators shouted, referring to the Muslim Brotherhood-linked al-Nahda movement which heads the country’s ruling coalition.
“Ghannouchi murderer!” they also chanted.
According to Tunisia Live, two al-Nahdha party headquarters and a local government building the Sidi Bouzid governorate have been attacked and set on fire.
Another prominent opposition politician, Chokri Belaid, was killed by religious extremists in February, sparking nation-wide protests.
On Wednesday, a minister and senior adviser to the prime minister said six people believed to have orchestrated Belaid’s killing have been identified.
Noureddin B’Hiri said after a cabinet meeting the details would be revealed “soon” by Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou.