Slain Tunisian leader's funeral marred by clash

The army, one of the few state institutions still holding people's respect, provided security for the funeral march and could play the role of a stabilizing force in the coming weeks.

Belaid had accused the Ennahda party of resorting to thugs to attack opposition rallies. His family and allies accuse the party of complicity in his murder. Although they have offered no proof, the allegations have fanned popular dissatisfaction with the government.

"We can't accept that they assassinate freedom, that they assassinate democracy _ that's what they are doing _ we are burying a martyr,'' said Mohammed Souissi, a 63-year-old veterinarian who showed up at the cemetery, where the crowd seemed unfazed by the intermittent rain and sang the national anthem and chanted "Ghannouchi assassin," a reference to Rachid Ghannouchi, the head of Ennahda.

Near Belaid's parental home where the funeral procession began, opposition politicians, lawyers in black robes and white collars gathered with thousands of other mourners, chanting ``stop the violence'' and ``we are all Chokri Belaid.''

More than a dozen headquarters of the Ennahda party were attacked overnight in towns around the country, Tunisian media reported. Schools, shops, banks and other institutions were all shuttered following the general strike.

Tunisia's prime minister offered to replace the government after Belaid's killing in response to long standing opposition demands, but that attempt may have backfired as Ennahda rejected his decision _ exposing divisions within the party itself between moderates and hardliners.

The Ministry of the Interior put out a statement Friday urging calm, but the police force has been a major target of protesters over the past few days. The ministry building itself on Friday morning was ringed by several lawyers of iron barriers and barbed wire extending across the city's signature Bourguiba Avenue. The area was also heavily patrolled by armored police vehicles in anticipation of any violence.

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