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Tunisia: Politician Chokri Belaid Shot Dead

Protests are growing after Tunisian opposition politician Chokri Belaid was shot dead outside his home in what some have called an "act of terrorism".

Thousands of Tunisians took to the streets outside the interior ministry, shouting "Shame, shame Chokri died", "Where is the government?", and "The government should fall". Security forces cordoned off the area.

In Sidi Bouzid, birthplace of the Arab Spring uprisings, police fired into the air and used tear gas to disperse demonstrators.

The family of Mr Belaid, who headed the opposition Democratic Patriots party and was a harsh critic of Tunisia's Islamist-led government, accused the ruling Ennahda party of being behind the murder.

"My brother was assassinated. I am desperate and depressed," said his brother Abdelmajid.

"I accuse (Ennahda leader) Rached Ghannouchi of assassinating my brother," he said.

Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali denounced Belaid's murder as an "act of terrorism" against the country.

"The murder of Belaid is a political assassination and the assassination of the Tunisian revolution.

"By killing him they wanted to silence his voice," said Mr Jebali, who heads the coalition government, formed after Tunisia's first post-Arab Spring election in 2011.

He said Belaid was shot dead with three bullets fired from close range by a man wearing a traditional long garment with a pointed hood, who then fled on a motorcycle ridden by an accomplice.

Mr Belaid was a high-profile member of the opposition Popular Front party.

The party's leader Ziad Lakhader said: "Chokri Belaid was killed today by four bullets to the head and chest ... doctors told us that he has died. This is a sad day for Tunisia."

The party has now pulled out of the constituent assembly which is tasked with writing a constitution.

Tunisia was the first Arab country to oust its leader and hold free elections as uprisings spread around the region two years ago, and has made a relatively smooth transition to democracy.

However, the government has faced many protests over economic hardship.

Declining trade with the crisis-hit euro zone means it has struggled to deliver the improved living standards that many Tunisians had hoped for.

Several opposition parties and trade unions have accused pro-Islamist groups of orchestrating clashes or attacks against them.