Gunmen shot dead a young Spanish politician in the troubled Basque country yesterday, the latest in a string of killings blamed on the separatist group ETA which has launched its most vicious offensive in recent years. Manuel Indiano Azaustre, 29, a town councillor with Spain's ruling conservative Popular Party (PP), was declared dead in hospital around 11 a.m., an hour after two gunmen shot him several times at the door of his candy shop. Police immediately blamed ETA for the killing, making it the the seventh since mid-July and the twelfth this year pinned on the group. It took place in the town of Zumarraga, near the coastal Basque city of San Sebastian in northern Spain. A PP spokesman said Indiano was unmarried but that his girlfriend was pregnant with their child. Twelve bullet shells were reportedly found at the scene. Local officials said Indiano had refused protection from a bodyguard. Spain's government mourned the latest killing of a Popular Party councillor -- they are often the target of ETA gunmen -- and urged Spaniards to continue backing its hardline stance against the separatists. “This is a very tough battle, but it is a battle we will win,” Deputy Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told Spanish radio station Onda Cero. “We must not lower our guard at any time and we must have faith in the security forces and in the effectiveness of the state of law and in the justice system.”

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