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DRUG GANGS ARE MAIN SUSPECTS IN SLAYING OF N.Y. JOURNALIST

Dominican and Colombian drug gangs are prime suspects in the slaying of journalist and anti-drug crusader Manuel de Dios Unanue, police said Thursday.

A leading Hispanic journalist called the killing late Wednesday "a declaration of war" against reporters probing drug trafficking.De Dios, 49, the Cuban-born former editor of El Diario-La Prensa, New York's largest Spanish-language newspaper, was shot twice in the back of the head about 9:15 p.m. by two Hispanic gunmen in their 20s as he stood at the bar of the Meson Asturias restaurant in Queens.

"They just walked in and blew him away," a police source said.

Chief of Detectives Joseph Berrelli told a news conference the murder of a journalist was "unusual . . . we haven't had it before. Whether it's going to be a trend, I don't know."

The murder of the journalist is the first in memory in New York. There have been no arrests.

Police were investigating Dominican drug rings in the case because "the Dominican drug dealers had the most to lose" from an expose de Dios and other journalists were planning about them in the next edition of a new publication, Crimen (Crime), a high-ranking detective source said.

A journalist who said she was working on that story talked to police investigators Thursday and asked for protection.

"Word on the street was that these bad guys were angry at him and at her," said one police investigator who asked not to be named.

The detective source said police were also concentrating on "a revenge thing by drug dealers . . . especially Colombians."