Tunisian opposition leader Mohamed Brahmi, shot dead Thursday, was killed using the same gun used to assassinate Chokri Belaid six months ago, according to a government report.
Belaid, leader of the Unified Democratic Nationalist party, was shot by a hooded gunman at close range outside his home in the Tunisian capital by a man who fled on a motorcycle on February 6.
Tunisia's Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou told a news conference Friday, "The same 9 mm automatic weapon that killed Belaid also killed Brahmi."
An autopsy reportedly showed that Brahmi, a member of the secular coalition called the Popular Front, had been hit with 14 bullets from a 9 mm weapon, six of which hit his upper body.
The killing of Brahmi, a secularist politician involved in drafting Tunisia’s new constitution, has sparked huge anti-government protests which threaten to further disrupt the nation’s transition to democracy.
The government says the main suspect is a hardline Islamic Salafist, Boubaker Hakim, already being sought on suspicion of smuggling weapons from Libya.
Ben Jeddou said Hakim was "among the most dangerous terrorists, who is being hunted internationally."
Tunisia's public security chief Mustapha Taieb Ben Amor said 14 radical Islamist suspects, including four already in prison, were implicated in the deaths of Belaid and Brahmi.
Tunisian officials said the suspects were part of a jihadist cell linked to Al Qaeda.
Meanwhile, thousands of protesters amassed in the Tunisian capital Tunis on Friday, a day after Brahmi was murdered.
— Jim Roberts (@nycjim) July 26, 2013
— RT (@RT_com) July 26, 2013
All flights in and out of the country were cancelled, while shops and banks closed their doors.
Both killings prompted violent protests against the Islamist-led Ennahda government in the capital and other cities.