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Tens of thousands mourn slain Tunisia opposition leader

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Tens of thousands mourn slain Tunisia opposition leader
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Tunis: Tens of thousands of Tunisians took to the streets amid scattered violence on Friday to mourn secular opposition leader Chokri Belaid, whose assassination has plunged Tunisia deeper into political crisis, reported Reuters.

Braving chilly rain, at least 50,000 people turned out for Belaid's funeral in his home district of Jebel al-Jaloud in the capital, chanting anti-Islamist and anti-government slogans.

It was Tunisia's biggest funeral since the death of Habib Bourguiba, independence leader and first president, in 2000.

Tunisia, cradle of the Arab uprisings, is riven by tensions between dominant Islamists and their secular opponents, and by frustration at the lack of social and economic progress since President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was ousted in January 2011.

"The people want a new revolution," shouted mourners in Tunis, who also sang the national anthem.

Crowds surged around an open army truck carrying Belaid's coffin, draped in a red and white Tunisian flag, from a cultural center in Jebel al-Jaloud towards the leafy Jallaz cemetery, as a security forces helicopter flew overhead.

Police fired teargas and shots in the air to disperse youths who were smashing cars near the cemetery, forcing some mourners to run from the choking clouds. Police also used teargas against demonstrators outside the Interior Ministry.

"Belaid, rest in peace, we will continue the struggle," mourners chanted, holding portraits of the politician killed near his home on Wednesday by a gunman who fled on a motorcycle.

Some demonstrators denounced Rachid Ghannouchi, leader of the ruling Islamist Ennahda party. "Ghannouchi, assassin, criminal," they chanted. "Tunisia is free, terrorism out."

Police fired teargas to disperse anti-government protesters throwing stones and petrol bombs in the southern mining town of Gafsa, a stronghold of support for Belaid, witnesses said.

Crowds there had chanted "The people want the fall of the regime", a slogan first used against Ben Ali.

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