MADRID — A newspaper columnist who was an outspoken critic of the armed Basque separatist group ETA was shot and killed outside his home Sunday in Spain's conflict-ridden northern Basque region.
Officials said ETA was probably behind the killing of Jose Luis Lopez de La Calle, though they made no arrests. No one claimed responsibility.
Lopez--a political columnist for El Mundo, a leading Spanish daily --was hit by two shots in the head and two in the chest as he returned to his home after buying newspapers shortly before 10 a.m., a spokesman for the Interior Ministry in Bilbao said. The attack took place in the northern town of Andoain.
Hours after the shooting, hundreds of people, including the president of the Basque government, Juan Jose Ibarretxe, gathered in Andoain to protest the slaying. Staff members of El Mundo stood in silence for 10 minutes in front of their offices throughout Spain.
Politicians called for demonstrations. Previous killings have sparked outraged protests.
ETA--the initials stand for the Basque Homeland and Freedom movement--began its violent campaign for independence of the Basque region in 1968. Since ending a 14-month truce Dec. 3, ETA has claimed responsibility for two car bombings that killed three people. It is blamed for another car bomb that injured seven.
The organization has been blamed for nearly 800 deaths since 1968.
Lopez, 62, was married and had two children.