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Dutch Politician Assassinated With Election Nine Days Away

By Sebastian Rotella

Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn, a populist maverick whose criticism of immigration and Islam propelled his rapid rise, was shot and killed outside a radio studio in an Amsterdam suburb Monday.

The assassination, which Dutch authorities said was the first in the modern history of the Netherlands, came just nine days before legislative elections in which the rightist politician’s fledgling party was a top contender.

The killing was especially shocking because the 54-year-old Fortuyn, an openly gay sociology professor, was an overnight phenomenon who had shaken up a tranquil nation with his aggressive and colorful style.

Police arrested the suspected killer and described him as a white man of Dutch nationality but didn’t identify him or provide other details. An eyewitness told the Los Angeles Times that the assassin was a short, youthful man wearing a baseball cap who opened fire at close range as Fortuyn walked to his car after an interview at the Radio 3 FM station in the town of Hilversum.

Fortuyn was hit six times in the head, neck and chest, authorities said. He died on the pavement where he had fallen, surrounded by a team of paramedics trying to revive him.

His death transformed him into an instant symbol of a Europe besieged by internal tensions and crises: immigration, street violence, extremism of many stripes, anti-Semitic and anti-Islamic sentiment and resentment of traditional leaders seen as out of touch and unresponsive.

“This was not an attack on Pim Fortuyn but an attack on democracy,” Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok said at a news conference.

Paul Vander Lugt, coordinator of the radio station, said he escorted Fortuyn to the exit of the studio at 6 p.m. Fortuyn and his chauffeur had walked into a parking lot when the gunman appeared and fired.