Authorities have identified and are pursuing the killer of leftist opposition leader Chokri Belaid, said Interior Minister Ali Laarayedh in a press conference Tuesday. Four suspects allegedly connected to the assassination of Belaid have been detained as well, said Laarayedh, and their ages range from 26 to 34 years.
A religious extremist group allegedly planned and carried out the murder, added the interior minister. He denied any external involvement in the assassination of Belaid, contrary to allegations made by Faouzi Ben Mrad, chairman of the Defense Committee of the Martyr Chokri Belaid, that Algerians were behind the murder. However, Laarayedh could not confirm whether or not the group belongs to a larger organization.
Recent media reports had previously circulated that at least one suspect, a hardline Islamist, has been arrested since the launch of an investigation February 6.
Tunisian radio Mosaique FM reported that, according to a high-level security forces official, the anti-crimes brigade at Gorjani has arrested a suspect who lives in the northern suburbs of Le Kram, while a second suspect is being pursued.
According to the same source, the suspect, a 31-year-old fundamentalist Islamist, has admitted involvement in the crime, saying he was executing a fatwa that had been issued against Belaid.
Recently-appointed Prime Minister Laarayedh – still acting as interior minister – stated last week that arrests had been made in Belaid’s case. But he did not provide any details regarding the number of suspects or their identities.
TAP stated Tuesday that media have said a second suspect was arrested, but the state-owned news agency could not confirm reports.
Thousands of protestors, many from the political opposition, demonstrated in downtown Tunis Saturday, denouncing the delay in the investigation of Belaid’s murder.
The Ministry of the Interior was not available for comment.