A judge has been killed in Spain's northern Basque Region near Bilbao. The assassination took place less than 24 hours after a car bomb exploded in Madrid.

Two gunmen shot 50-year-old judge and university professor Jose Maria Lidon Corbi as he was on his way to work in the resort town of Getxo, near the Basque city of Bilbao.

The judge, accompanied by his wife, was driving away from his residence when the gunmen approached his car. One of the gunmen stationed himself in front of the vehicle, forcing it to stop, and the other came to the driver's side.

They fired several shots at the judge, two of which hit him in the head. Doctors say he died almost immediately. His wife was not hit.

Police believe the gunmen were members of the armed separatist group ETA.

According to the Basque regional officials, the judge did not have a bodyguard because his name had never appeared on lists of potential victims drawn up by ETA. Friends say he used to joke that he was not important enough.

Besides sitting in the provincial court of Vizcaya, Judge Lidon also taught penal law at the University of Deusto. He was a popular professor at the university, where he had studied and taught for more than 25 years. Classes were suspended in mourning.

The killing took place less than 24 hours after a huge car bomb exploded in Madrid, injuring 95 people. Police have arrested two suspected members of ETA in the attack.

ETA has claimed responsibility for 35 killings since it called off a 14 month truce at the end of 1999. Twelve of those killings have taken place this year.