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Tunisian opposition leader shot dead, party member says, 2nd assassination this year

Gunmen shot dead the leader of a leftist Tunisian opposition party outside his house Thursday morning, according to a member of his party.

Mohammed Brahmi, 58, of the Arab nationalist People's Party was standing outside his home when he was gunned down, said party member Khaled Khichi.

It is the second killing of an opposition member this year, following that of Chokri Belaid of the leftist Popular Front, who was shot dead in February. His killing provoked a political crisis that nearly derailed Tunisia's political transition.

Brahmi's daughter told Shems FM radio that two men on a moped sped up to her father outside the house and gunned him down. Local media reported he was shot 11 times.

The killing comes as Tunisia was celebrating the 56th anniversary of becoming a republic after gaining independence from France.

Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring, is struggling with a democratic transition after overthrowing its dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011, facing a faltering economy, popular unrest over unmet expectations and a rising extremist Islamist movement.

The government has blamed Belaid's assassination on Islamist extremists and said that six suspects are still on the run and their names will soon be revealed.

Belaid's death prompted the resignation of the prime minister and a cabinet reshuffle. The latest assassination comes as Tunisia's drawn out transition may finally be nearing its end.

The new constitution has been written and will be voted on in the coming weeks. Prime Minister Ali Larayedh promised on Monday that elections for a new president would be held before the end of the year.

Tunisia is led by the moderate Islamist Ennahda Party, which dominated October 2011 elections and rules in a coalition with two secular parties.

The opposition has criticized Ennahda for not cracking down on Islamist extremists, and many members of Belaid's party hold the government responsible for his assassination.