Assassins shot and killed Tunisian opposition party leader Mohamed Brahmi outside his home Thursday in the second such incident in the birthplace of the Arab Spring since February.

Extremists were also blamed for the assassination of Chokri Belaid, another opposition leader, five months ago. That killing nearly derailed the country’s political transition.

Protests erupted quickly after Thursday’s slaying, blaming Ennahda, the moderate Islamist party that leads the government. Demonstrators gathered outside the offices of the Interior Ministry in Tunis, calling on the group to give up power. Police forces were deployed to contain them.

In a statement released shortly after the killing, Ennahda called the assassination “a cowardly and despicable crime.”

Tunisia’s economy remains in crisis and clashes between secularists and devout Islamists occur regularly. Ennahda has been criticized for failing to rein in Islamist extremists who have become bolder since the revolution.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

The New York Times:

TAP, Tunisia’s official news agency, said the victim, Mohamed Brahmi, 58, leader of the Arab nationalist People’s Party, was felled by several bullets outside his home in the northeastern city of Ariana. Other local Tunisian media said Mr. Brahmi was shot at least 11 times as he sat in his car by a pair of gunmen, who escaped on a moped.

The assassination, which coincided with celebrations for the 56th anniversary of Tunisian statehood after independence from France, came as Tunisia was still grappling with a democratic transition following the January 2011 revolution that toppled the country’s autocratic leader, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, and forced him into exile. The Tunisian revolution was the catalyst that spawned similar uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria.

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