By Alexandra Valencia
QUITO (Reuters) – The mayor of the Ecuadorian port city of Manta, Agustin Intriago, was shot dead on Sunday, authorities said, in a brazen attack that stunned 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 of their injuries.
Security officers along with the mayor returned fire and injured the driver of the vehicle, who is now in custody while receiving medical treatment in hospital. Noguera said the man was a Venezuelan national with no criminal record.
The suspected shooter escaped, Noguera said.
Police said officers found a grenade in the truck and a firearm that was likely used in the attack.
It was not immediately clear why the mayor was attacked, although police said he reported receiving threats from authorities, without providing further details.
Ecuador has faced an increase in violent crime which the government says is driven by power struggles between criminal gangs over drug trafficking.
Manta, a city of over 200,000 people, has been plagued by such gangs, while rampant crime fueled by economic and social problems adds to the country’s security concerns.
President Guillermo Lasso expressed his sadness over Intriago’s “assassination” in a statement on Twitter and said 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 happened.”
In May, gunmen targeted the mayor of the town of Duran. He escaped the attack unscathed but a police officer was killed and several other people were injured, media reported.
Intriago belonged to a local political party in Manta.
Earlier, authorities said six people were killed over the weekend and 11 others injured in the latest outbreak of gang-fueled violence that rocked Ecuador’s prisons.