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Tunisian politician survives assassination attempt

Attack on politician from ruling party comes after dramatic week in Tunisian politics, with a minister resigning over 'spread of corruption'
Security services say they are combing the site of the attack, near the coastal town of Sousse, for evidence (AFP)

A prominent Tunisian member of parliament for the ruling party survived an assassination attempt on Thursday morning, according to Tunisian media reports.

Ridha Sharf el-Din, a leading member of Nidaa Tounes, said the car he was travelling in was targeted by a lone gunman, who fired at least eight shots as he approached the coastal city of Sousse.

Tunisian news sites carried pictures of Din’s car riddled with bullet holes after the failed attempt on his life.          

Din, who is also head of the much-loved Tunisian sports club Etoile Sportive du Sahel, said he had received a personal phone call from President Beiji Caid Essebsi in the wake of the shooting.

Thursday’s assassination attempt comes amid intense political tumult in Tunisia, which is currently ruled by a coalition of parties from across the spectrum led by the centre-left Nidaa Tounes.

A leading member of Nidaa Tounes on Monday called for the government to step down, saying that the cabinet appointed by Prime Minister Habib Essid had “not delivered to Tunisians any of the things they are waiting for”.

Speaking at a press conference, Munzir Belhaj said the government had “not made good its election promises” and had “failed miserably”.

Left-winger Mohsen Marzouq, the party’s general secretary, also called for Essid’s government to be dissolved.

The statements were followed a day later by the resignation of a cabinet minister who said his attempts to combat corruption had been “defeated”.

Lazhar Akremi, the minister in charge of relations with Tunisia’s parliament, stepped down in protest at what he called the ongoing “spread of corruption”.

Akremi became the first minister to resign from Essid’s government since its formulation in February.

Thursday’s attack was the first apparent assassination plot to target a major politician in more than a year.

In 2013 Tunisia was rocked by two high-profile assassinations of leftist secular politicians.

The killings led to mass protests that eventually toppled the ruling Ennahda Party, which had come to power following the 2011 revolution.