Marchers mark assassination
Thousands of people have taken to the streets to mark 40 days since the assassination of an opposition leader that triggered nationwide riots, led to the resignation of the prime minister and plunged the country into political crisis. Chokri Belaid, leader of the leftist Popular Front and a critic of the governing Ennahda party, was gunned down outside his home on Feb. 6. Police have arrested four suspects belonging to a radical Islamic group over their alleged involvement in the slaying, but the government says the killer himself remains at large. According to police, about 10,000 people marched in Tunis on Saturday brandishing banners such as “Who killed Belaid?” and “No to violence.” After overthrowing former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011, the country is undergoing a rocky transition to democracy.
Rebels flee to Rwanda
Several hundred fighters from the country’s M23 rebel group fled to neighboring Rwanda on Friday and Saturday after heavy fighting with a rival faction, Rwandan officials said. Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo confirmed that 600 fighters were among an influx of people that crossed into her country late on Friday and early Saturday from the country’s chronically restive east. “The soldiers and officers from DR [the Democratic Republic of the] Congo that have entered Rwanda have been disarmed and detained. Several wounded among them are receiving treatment with assistance from the Red Cross,” she said in a statement. Among the fighters was M23’s ex-political leader Jean-Marie Runiga, whose faction has been fighting rivals loyal to the group’s military leader, Sultani Makenga, since March 9. Also in the group that fled is Baudouin Ngaruye, a top military commander of Runiga’s wing who has been under UN sanctions since November last year for his alleged role in a 2009 massacre and mass rape.
Prisoner takes hostages
Authorities say a convicted prisoner trying to escape for the third time has taken six hostages — both prison officers and prisoners — and demands to be allowed to leave the prison. The prisoner claims to be heavily armed. A photograph shot by a prisoner shows Albanian convict Alket Rizaj holding what he claims to be a live grenade besides six handcuffed hostages. Police special forces have deployed outside the Malandrino prison while prison officers and a prosecutor try to negotiate with Rizaj. His lawyer is also present. Rizaj, convicted for murders, has escaped twice before, in 2006 and 2009, from Korydallos maximum security prison in Athens, both times by helicopters that picked him and another convict, Vassilis Paleokostas, from the prison’s courtyard.
Minister makes album
Parliamentary Undersecretary for Transport Norman Baker is releasing his debut rock album at the age of 55, the Sunday Times newspaper reported. The Liberal Democrat lawmaker is the lead singer and main lyricist with the Reform Club, a group he originally formed decades earlier. He had thought about cutting an album for 30 years, but finally got round to it after writing a list of things he wanted to achieve before he dies. “I’ve done it now because I thought I should get round to it before I’m too clapped out. That’ll be about 10 years hence,” he said. He said the album, titled Always Tomorrow, was not political.