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Funeral for assassinated politician

Thousands of protesters chanting anti-government slogans joined a funeral march to lay to rest an assassinated Tunisian opposition politician, a display of the anger threatening the survival of a government once seen as a model in the region for the transition to democracy.

Adding to the tension, a bomb exploded in the early morning on Saturday underneath a car at the port in Tunis outside a police station.

Though there were no injuries, the rare attack helped deepen the sense of unease in this North African country, where two opposition politicians have been shot dead in the last six months, apparently with the same gun.

Mohammed Brahmi's coffin was carried by soldiers to Jellaz cemetery and buried next to Chokri Belaid, a fellow politician who was killed in February. Mr Brahmi's widow and five children accompanied the coffin on its route through the capital.

"Down with the party of the Brotherhood," chanted mourners, referring to the ruling Ennahda Party's affiliation with the regional Muslim Brotherhood religious group. "The people demand the fall of the regime."

The latest assassination on Thursday has exacerbated the distrust between the ruling coalition led by moderate Islamists and the opposition, which has demanded the dissolution of the government because of its failures to rein in Islamic extremists, turn around the economy and manage the transition to democracy.

Speaking next to the grave, activist lawyer Nacer Laouini called on army chief of staff Gen Mohamed Salah Hamdi to protect the people from the Islamists - a clear reference to the recent events in Egypt, where the military ousted the elected Islamist president.

He said: "The head of the army is here. We ask the army to be on the side of the people as it always has been and protect Tunisians against Ennahda."

Tunisia's army, however, has shown little inclination to involve itself in politics up until now, unlike its Egyptian counterpart. The crowd sang the national anthem several times and with much emotion.

Following the funeral, hundreds demonstrated in front of the constituent assembly, calling for its dissolution and were met by volleys of tear gas by police who chased demonstrators through the streets.

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