Four radicals held over Tunisian assassination

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TUNISIAN police have identified the killer of opposition leader Chokri Belaid as a member of a radical Islamist Salafi group who is on the run, prime minister-designate Ali Larayedh has said.

Mr Larayedh, who remains interior minister until his government is formed, told a news conference yesterday that police had arrested four accomplices who are also ultra-orthodox Salafis.

The assassination of secular politician Belaid on 6 February provoked the biggest street protests in Tunisia since the overthrow of strongman Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali two years ago.

A security source said a Salafi had been arrested in connection with the killing on Monday, while Tunisia’s Express FM radio cited a senior security official as saying police had arrested three Salafis, including a police officer, over the murder.

“Now we have identified the killer of Belaid and he is on the run. The police are looking for him,” Mr Larayedh said.

One of the arrested suspects had accompanied the gunman who shot Belaid outside his home before escaping on a motorcycle, he said, adding that the group had mounted surveillance of Belaid’s home and a nearby square for several days before the attack.

“Identifying the killers reinforces confidence in the judiciary and in the neutrality of security (forces),” said Mr Larayedh, who belongs to the moderate Islamist Ennahda party.

Belaid’s widow Basma said it was still not clear who had orchestrated her husband’s assassination, which was the first in Tunisia for decades.

“It’s good to know who killed Chokri, but it is very important to know who gave the order because it was a very organised crime,” shesaid.