TUNIS (Reuters/AFP) - Tunisia’s Interior Ministry is protecting several politicians and journalists who have received death threats, its spokesman said on Wednesday, a week after the assassination of secular opposition leader Chokri Belaid. “The forms of protection vary between protecting homes and providing escorts and non-regular protection for others,” added the spokesman, Lotfi Hidouri, without giving details. An unidentified gunman killed Belaid outside his home last Wednesday, igniting public outrage and setting off three days of sometimes violent protests against the Islamist-led government. Hidouri did not name the recipients of state protection or say who was behind the death threats.

Political sources said those given protection include Hamma Hammami, the leader of the same party to which Belaid belonged, and Najib Chebbi, leader of the secular Republican Party. Belaid’s assassination has fuelled fears of more violence in Tunisia, two years after a largely peaceful popular uprising overthrew veteran strongman Zein al-Abidine Ben Ali and inspired Arabs elsewhere to revolt against entrenched leaders. No one has claimed responsibility for the killing of Belaid, an outspoken critic of Ben Ali and more recently of Tunisia’s main Islamist Ennahda party. Members of his family have accused Ennahda of complicity in his death. The party denies this. Late on Tuesday, ruling Ennahda party said it could leave power, throwing Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali a lifeline in his quest to form a government of technocrats and steer the country out of crisis. “Ennahda could quit power if Jebali maintains his proposal. Everything is possible. It is not inevitable for Ennahda to stay in the government,” Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem said.