Veteran Spanish communist party leader dead at 97

MADRID (AP) — Santiago Carrillo, a veteran Spanish Communist Party leader and Civil War combatant who spent 38 years in exile, has died. He was 97.

The Spanish Communist Party said in a statement Tuesday that Carrillo died at his home in Madrid of natural causes.

The son of a militant socialist, Carrillo was born in the northern city of Gijon in 1915. Politically active throughout his youth, he joined the Communist Party in 1936.

He succeeded legendary Civil War figure Dolores Ibarruri as party secretary general in 1960, and kept the post until 1982.

Carrillo fought against rebel Gen. Francisco Franco's rightwing forces in Madrid during the 1936-39 Civil War.

He fled to France at the conflict's end, but remained politically active. He returned to Spain following dictator Franco's death in 1975.