Gunmen kill prominent ally of Venezuelan president

Socialist President Nicolas Maduro, (poster), and his late predecessor Hugo Chavez for years used Venezuela's big oil revenues to fund social spending programs (AFP Photo/Federico Parra)

Caracas (AFP) - Gunmen killed a prominent ally of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, prosecutors said on Wednesday, a crime the socialist leader suggested was politically motivated.

Ricardo Duran Trujillo, 45, was fatally shot near his home on Tuesday night, the state prosecution service said in a statement.

There were conflicting suggestions as to whether Duran, a former journalist and ex-head of media for the National Assembly legislature, was the victim of a botched robbery or a targeted killing.

He was a high-profile supporter of the president, who is locked in a political standoff with opponents.

Prosecutors, citing witnesses, said Duran "was intercepted by three men" in the west of the capital and resisted when they tried to rob him.

Maduro condemned the killing of an ally "committed to the revolution," blaming "those who continue waging war on the Venezuelan people from within the darkness of fascism."

Prosecutors said in a statement that unidentified men shot Duran several times before driving off in their own vehicle, leaving his belongings untouched.

"It is striking that they did not take anything," said Daniel Aponte, head of the Capital District government, a metropolitan authority for which Duran was working.

Aponte told reporters Duran was carrying his own firearm at the time of the attack.

Venezuela has one of the highest murder rates in the world, according to the United Nations.

It is gripped by a political and economic crisis, with a standoff between Maduro and the center-right opposition in the legislature raising tensions.

Duran was working as head of media relations for the metropolitan authority, which was set up by Maduro to rival the opposition-held city hall.

He was also a Caracas city councilor and worked for state television channel Venezolana de Television.