The government has promised to investigate the slaying of a former leader of the Contra rebels. Someconservatives blamed the assassination on the leftist Sandinistas, who governed for a decade.

The killing of Enrique Bermudez cast doubts on government assurances for the safety of rebels, who laid down their arms last year after waging a nine-year U.S.-backed war against the former Sandinista leadership.Bermudez, 58, was shot twice in the head in the parking lot of a downtown hotel late Saturday. The gunman fled on foot and police said they had no suspects. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the slaying.

Vice Interior Minister Jose Pallais promised an "exhaustive" investigation and called the killing "an attack against the policy of reconciliation by the government" of President Violeta Barrios de Chamorro.

The Interior Ministry, responsible for internal security, remains under the control of the Sandinistas, who Chamorro's broad coalition defeated a year ago at the polls.

But Right-wing Radio Corporacion, in a Sunday broadcast, blamed the Sandinistas. "The eyes of the people say the Sandinistas are responsible for his death," it said.

Sports Minister Carlos Garcia, who graduated from the Military Academy in 1952 with Bermudez, said he saw the former Contra leader in the bar of the Intercontinental Hotel shortly before the killing.

Bermudez told him he had been looking for someone.

"`I'm leaving,"' Garcia said Bermudez told him. "`I don't want to get you hurt. There are people here who think only evil.' "

Minutes later, Bermudez was sprawled next to his Jeep with two bullet holes behind his left ear. Police said he didn't have a chance to use the Walther PPK pistol he was carrying.

Garcia said the slaying clouds the government's ability to guarantee the safety of former Contras.

Months earlier, Bermudez said he feared he'd be killed by Sandinista sympathizers.