QUITO, Ecuador — The mayor of the Ecuadorian Pacific port city of Manta, Agustín Intriago, was shot dead on Sunday, authorities said, in a brazen attack that shocked the political establishment.
Police said Intriago, 38, who was re-elected mayor of Manta in February, was inspecting public works in the city at the time of the attack.
Regional police commander Edwin Noguera told reporters that a gunman got out of a stolen truck and opened fire on Intriago, hitting him and a woman described as a «collateral victim.» Both died from their injuries.
The security agents together with the mayor returned fire, wounding the driver of the vehicle, who is now in police custody while receiving medical attention at the hospital. Noguera said the man was a Venezuelan national with no criminal record.
The suspected shooter escaped, Noguera said.
Police said officers had found a grenade in the truck and a weapon that was likely used in the attack.
It was not immediately clear why the mayor had been targeted, although police said they had reported receiving threats to authorities, without providing further details.
Ecuador has faced a rise in violent crime that the government says is due to power struggles between criminal gangs over drug trafficking.
Manta, a city of more than 200,000, has fallen prey to such gangs, while widespread common crime fueled by economic and social problems adds to the country’s security problems.
President Guillermo Lasso expressed regret over Intriago’s «murder» in a statement on Twitter, saying he had ordered authorities to bring the killers to justice.
Former President Rafael Correa expressed his shock, saying on Twitter: «I can’t believe this has happened.»
In May, armed men attacked the mayor of the city of Durán. He was unharmed in the attack, but a police officer was killed and several people were injured, media reported.
Intriago belonged to a local political party in Manta.
Earlier, authorities said six people died over the weekend and 11 more were injured in the last shoot of the gang-fueled violence rocking Ecuador’s prisons.