Military officers escort the coffin of late President Beji Caid Essebsi during his state funeral at the presidential palace in the capital's eastern suburb of Carthage. Picture: Fethi Belaid/Pool via Reuters

Tunis - Tunisians bade farewell to the country's first democratically elected president, Beji Caid Essebsi, on Saturday in a state funeral attended by leaders from France, Spain, Qatar, Algeria and elsewhere.

French President Emmanul Macron, Spain's King Felipe VI, Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Algeria's interim President Abdelkader Bensalah were among the heads of state and government who attended the services.

Essebsi, 92, died on Thursday almost five years after he took office. He was elected president in December 2014 and subsequently steered Tunisia through its democratic transition in the wake of the 2011 uprising that toppled long-time Tunisian autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and inspired the so-called Arab Spring revolts.

Essebsi's coffin, draped in the Tunisian flag, was brought into a hall inside the presidential palace in Tunis, where dignitaries and Essebsi's family members gathered to pay their last respects to him.

Picture: Ammar Awad/Reuters

Some attendees spoke to pay tribute to the late leader before the coffin was carried and loaded onto a military carriage.

Guards of honour on horses moved on both sides of the funeral procession.

Military aeroplanes do a flyover during the funeral of the Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi in Tunis. Picture: Ammar Awad/Reuters


Security forces deployed along roads leading to a cemetery, located around seven kilometres from the presidential palace, where Essebsi would to be laid to rest. Army helicopters flew overhead.

A military truck carrying the coffin of late President Beji Caid Essebsi is seen during his state funeral in Tunis. Picture: Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters

Crowds of Tunisians, some of them holding the national flag lined the route in the sweltering heat to say farewell to Essebsi.

A military truck carries the coffin of late President Beji Caid Essebsi during his state funeral in Tunis. Picture: Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters

Verses from the Koran were heard over loudspeakers at nearby mosques in remembrance of the late leader.

Massive security forces had fanned out across Tunis and closed several roads as part of heavy security for the funeral and the procession.

dpa