Prince Victor / EPA
The body of Helmin Wiels is covered by a sheet on a beach in Curacao on Sunday.
A political leader on the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao was shot dead as he drank beer on a beach Sunday, authorities said.
Helmin Wiels, whose Pueblo Soberano party campaigns for independence from the Netherlands, was killed by gunmen who sped off in a car, according to multiple witnesses.
The 54-year-old died instantly, according to the Curacao Chronicle, which posted a picture of his body on the beach surrounded by drinks.
A motive for the killing remains unclear, but the Curacao government said Wiels had been threatened in the past and was under security protection, according to the Dutch Volkskrant newspaper.
Wiels, who had sent his bodyguard home, was enjoying a beer on the island’s Marie Pampoen beach, near the capital, Willemstad, when two gunmen approached him and fired five shots, according to a BBC report.
Michael Kooren / EPA, file
Politician Helmin Wiels, who was shot dead on the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao on Sunday.
"This act was horrendous, terrible, and we are in shock,” said Curacao’s Prime Minister Daniel Hodge, according to the BBC. "We are not accustomed to these things on the island.”
The government of Curacao -- which has a population of about 150,000 and lies just to the north of Venezuela -- said the Netherlands had offered to help with the investigation into the killing.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the apparent assassination was a "cowardly deed."
"Curacao has lost a driven politician who fought for his ideals and loved his country," Rutte said, according to the BBC.
This story was originally published on Mon May 6, 2013 7:28 AM EDT