SEVILLE, Spain (Reuters) -- A local politician from Spain's ruling party and his wife were killed by gunmen early on Friday in an attack blamed on the Basque guerrilla group ETA, officials said.
City councillor Alberto Jimenez Becerril and his wife, Ascension Garcia Ortiz, both 37 years old, were gunned down on a street in the southern Spanish city of Seville while returning home from dinner with friends, authorities said.
Jimenez, official spokesman for the local branch of the Popular Party, died of a bullet wound to the head, and his wife was fatally shot in the chest, according to news reports. The couple had three young children.
Police cordoned off the area in the search for suspects, but no arrests were made.
Spanish officials immediately condemned the double murder and blamed it on ETA (Basque Homeland and Freedom), which has killed more than 800 people in its 30-year struggle for an independent state.
Spanish government spokesman Miguel Angel Rodriguez branded them "terrorists" and vowed to continue the fight against ETA.
"This is truly a tragedy," he told state radio. "All they want to do is kill."
The assassination raised new questions about the protection of Popular Party politicians, who have recently become ETA's prime targets.
It was the fourth murder of a town councillor linked to ETA in the past six months and the fifth in the past two years. The others all took place in the Basque country of northern Spain.
The kidnap and killing of Basque town councillor Miguel Angel Blanco last July sparked an outpouring of national outrage, bringing an estimated six million Spaniards into the streets.
Another councillor, 64-year-old Jose Luis Caso, who had refused bodyguards despite repeated death threats, was shot in the head in December while drinking at a bar.
Jose Ignacio Iruretagoyena, a 35-year-old Basque politician, was killed in a car bombing on January 9.
The outlawed guerrilla group killed 13 people last year.
The latest string of attacks has given rise to criticism of police, Basque regional leaders and the central government for failing to do more to protect Popular Party politicians.
ETA considers the centre-right ruling party the heirs to late dictator Francisco Franco, who brutally repressed Basque nationalism during his four decades in power.
In March 1995, ETA tried to killed Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, then opposition leader, as he travelled to his office, but he was saved by his vehicle's armour plating.
Authorities have been bracing for a violent backlash following the jailing early last month of the leaders of ETA's political wing, Herri Batasuna.
The radical separatist party's 23-member directorate was sentenced to seven years each in prison for showing a video of armed ETA guerrillas during the 1996 election campaign. Herri Batasuna commands 15 percent support among Basque voters.
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