, TUNIS, July 26 – Protests and a general strike swept Tunisia Friday after gunmen killed an opposition head with “the same gun” used to kill a colleague, as under fire authorities pointed to Al-Qaeda links.
Mohamed Brahmi was gunned down with the same weapon used to kill another opposition politician, Chokri Belaid, six months earlier, Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou said.
He said the main suspect in Brahmi’s killing was a member of a radical Sunni Muslim Salafist movement linked to Al-Qaeda.
“The first elements of the investigation show the implication of Boubaker Hakim, a Salafist extremist,” he said a day after Brahmi was gunned down outside his home near Tunis by two gunmen on a motorcycle.
The 30 year old Paris born chief suspect 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.
Meanwhile, with many streets in the capital deserted, national airline Tunisair and European carriers cancelled flights as street protests were expected amid allegations of government connivance in the killing.
In rival shows of force, thousands of pro-government demonstrators held a solidarity rally in Tunis.
Brahmi, 58, an MP with the leftist and nationalist Popular Movement, was assassinated outside his home in Ariana, near the capital.