Curacao politician Helmin Wiels shot dead

Forensic investigators examine the crime scene on 5 May 2013 Forensic teams are investigating the beach where Helmin Wiels was killed

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A prominent politician on the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao, Helmin Wiels, has been shot dead.

Witnesses said he was killed on the beach by gunmen who sped off in a car.

Mr Wiels, 54, led the Pueblo Soberano party, which campaigns for independence from the Netherlands.

Local media say it is the first time a politician has been assassinated in Curacao. Prime Minister Daniel Hodge said: "This act was horrendous, terrible, and we are in shock."

Beach attack

"We are not accustomed to these things on the island," the prime minister said.

Map of Curacao

A motive for the killing remains unclear, but the Curacao government said Mr Wiels had received threats in the past.

Justice Minister Nelson Navarro said Mr Wiels had a security guard assigned to him after receiving the threats.

He also promised to increase security for all of Curacao's elected officials.

Friends of Mr Wiels said he had sent his bodyguard home earlier in the day and was enjoying a beer on Marie Pompoen beach when two gunmen approached him and fired five shots.

No one else was hurt in the attack.

A spokesman for the Pueblo Soberano party said they suspected organised crime to be behind the killing because of Mr Wiels's work in combating corruption.

Mr Wiels's Pueblo Soberano party gained 22.6% of the votes in the 2012 election and holds five of the 21 seats in Curacao's parliament.

'Cowardly deed'

Mr Wiels was well known as a fervent supporter of cutting Curacao's ties with the Netherlands.

Curacao is a former Dutch colony and now forms an independent country within the kingdom of the Netherlands, but it still relies on the Netherlands for defence and foreign policy.

Mr Wiels had his own radio show in which he often discussed controversial issues affecting the island of about 150,000 people.

On Friday, Mr Wiels had denounced alleged abuses committed by Curacao telecommunication company UTS in an interview with news site Versgeperst.com.

He accused UTS of involvement in the illegal sale of lottery numbers.

The Curacao government said the Netherlands had offered to help with the investigation into Mr Wiels's murder.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the attack on Mr Wiels was a "cowardly deed".

"Curacao has lost a driven politician who fought for his ideals and loved his country," Mr Rutte said.

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