Spanish councillor assassinated

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The Independent Online

A town councilor of the ruling Popular Party was shot dead in the streets of Sant Adria de Besos near Barcelona in an attack by suspected Basque separatists, said police.

A town councilor of the ruling Popular Party was shot dead in the streets of Sant Adria de Besos near Barcelona in an attack by suspected Basque separatists, said police.

Jose Luis Ruiz Casado, 42, died immediately after he was shot in the back of the neck near his home shortly before 8 a.m. local time (0600 GMT) today, said police. Police said Ruiz Casado was shot a second time in the head after he fell to the ground.

News agency Europa Press reported that witnesses saw two people fleeing the scene just after the shooting in a Renault with Barcelona license plates. Police found the car nearby, on fire, minutes later.

Ruiz Casado, married with two children, was one of two Popular Party members in the coastal town, just north of the city of Barcelona.

A local police officer in Sant Adria de Besos, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said authorities suspect gunmen of Basque separatist group ETA. ETA has claimed responsibility for 11 killings this year, including Popular Party members, and is blamed for a 12th, beside Thursday's shooting.

The shooting comes amid a major crackdown by French and Spanish police on ETA. French police last weekend arrested 16 people accused of belonging to the group, including Ignacio Gracia Arregi, known as Inaki de Renteria, who Spanish authorities consider the leader of ETA's military wing.

Spanish police arrested 20 accused ETA members a week ago throughout Spain.

ETA has killed nearly 800 people in its 32-year campaign for a Basque homeland straddling northern Spain and southwestern France.

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