The Tunisian army will secure and protect grave of the slain secular opposition figure, Chokri Belaid, from salafists and the revolution that toppled the country’s former dictator, Tunisia’s defense minister said Friday.
Some news surfaced that salafists were on to dig up Belaid’s grave to take his body out. The ultra-conservative Islamists warned that Belaid was a leftist Marxist and as an “infidel and an atheist,” he shouldn’t be buried in a Muslim graveyard.
But Defense Minister Abdel Karim al-Zubaidy promised in a statement that the Tunisian army will protect Belaid’s grave.
Zubaidi also said that the army is observing all political factions as the country is going through one of its worst political upheaval sine the 2011 uprising that toppled President Ben Ali.
“The military vows to protect the revolution’s objectives and will continue to do so,” he added.
Belaid’s family has accused the ruling Ennahda of assassinating him. Belaid, who known as a fierce critic of the Islamist-led government, was gunned down outside his home on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Tunisia’s Republican Army doesn’t take “instructions and recommendations,” from any political entity, Zubaidi said, confirming that the army is independent and will work in similar circumstances when there was political vacuum after the overthrow of Ben Ali.
Belaid’s killing has plunged Tunisia deeper into political crisis.
The slain opposition leader was buried on Friday in the capital Tunis in a funeral attended by an estimated by 1.4 million people, many of them chanting anti-Islamist and anti-government slogans.
Violence erupted near the cemetery as police fired teargas at demonstrators who threw stones and set cars ablaze. Police also used teargas against protesters near the Interior Ministry, a frequent flashpoint for clashes in the Tunisian capital.
The army was deployed and helicopters circled overhead as more than 50,000 people massed along the 3.5 kilometer (2 mile) route that bore Belaid’s coffin as it was transported to the Jellaz Cemetery from the Djebel Jelloud district.