Tunisian opposition leader killed amid tensions

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TUNIS, Tunisia — A Tunisian opposition leader critical of the Islamist-led government was gunned down as he left home today in the first assassination in post-revolutionary Tunisia, setting off anti-government riots that left downtown Tunis choked with tear gas and patrolled by armored vehicles.

The killing of Chokri Belaid, a 48-year-old lawyer, heightens tensions in the North African nation whose path from dictatorship to democracy has been seen as a model for the Arab world so far.

Police used tear gas to disperse thousands of protesters who assembled in front of the Interior Ministry in the center of the capital to accuse the government of allowing the assassination to happen.

The motive behind Belaid’s killing is unclear. It comes as Tunisia is struggling to maintain stability and revive its economy. The revolution set off revolts across the Arab world and unleashed new social and religious tensions in this Mediterranean nation of 10 million.

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