Suspected murderer of Tunisia opposition MP Brahmi arrested

Published February 9th, 2014 - 07:30 GMT

A suspect in last July’s murder of Tunisian opposition politician Mohammad Brahmi was arrested by security forces overnight Saturday, the interior ministry’s spokesman said.

The security forces were engaged in a gunbattle as they “surrounded a house (near the capital Tunis) where a terrorist group had holed up. Following a sustained exchange of fire, four elements were arrested,” interior ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Aroui told Agence France Presse.

“Among them is Hmed El Melki, alias ‘Somali,’ one of the elements implicated in the assassination of the martyr Mohammad Brahmi,” he added.

“The interior ministry stresses that it was a successful operation,” the spokesman said without revealing the identities of the other suspects.

Brahmi was assassinated last year by suspected jihadists as Islamist violence rocked the North African country. He was the second of two opposition politicians to have been assassinated last year, the first being Chokri Belaid.

Gunmen killed Belaid on Feb. 6 and Brahmi on July 25, both of them outside their homes.

The announcement of the suspect’s arrest came after the government said Tuesday that the suspected Islamist assassin of Belaid had been killed in a police raid.

Authorities blamed the murders on the Ansar Al Sharia, a jihadist outfit accused of links to Al Qaeda, but the group never claimed responsibility for those or any other attacks.

Belaid was a charismatic leftist politician and virulent critic of the Islamist party Ennahda then in power. His murder triggered massive anti-government protests and a crisis from which Tunisia has only recently started to emerge.

Ennahda relinquished power in January in the face of accusations from the mainly secular opposition that it had failed to tackle a surge of Islamist extremism.

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