Huge crowd for Tunisia opposition leader's funeral: AFP

A huge crowd took part on Friday in the funeral procession of murdered opposition leader Chokri Belaid in southern Tunis, with angry mourners shouting anti-government slogans, AFP journalists reported.

The army was deployed and helicopters circled overhead as more than 10,000 people massed along the 3.5 kilometre (2 mile) route that bore Belaid's coffin as it was transported to the El-Jellaz cemetery from the Djebel Jelloud district.

Hundreds more gathered in the surrounding streets.

Tunis was at a near standstill, and all flights to and from the country's main airport were cancelled after the country's biggest union called a general strike to protest Belaid's killing.

The mourners shouted slogans denouncing the ruling Islamist Ennahda party, calling them "assassins," and women ululated as they accompanied Belaid, who was shot dead outside his home on Wednesday, to his final resting place.

"With our blood and our souls we will sacrifice ourselves for the martyr," shouted the crowd, which included prominent politicians.

There were chaotic and emotional scenes earlier, with one of Belaid's daughters fainting in tears.

"My son is a man who lived with courage and dignity. I was never afraid, he left as martyr for our country," said the mother of the leftist opposition leader, who was shot dead outside his house early on Wednesday by a lone gunmen.

"We lost a great hero," Beji Caid Essebsi, a centre-right opposition leader and former premier, told AFP.

But he sounded an optimistic note, despite the deepening political crisis and the violence that has rocked the country since Wednesday, saying: "We must never fear the worst".

Belaid's funeral coincided with weekly prayers in the Muslim country, whose long-established secular tradition has been countered by the rise of one of the region's most powerful Islamist parties.