Mob takes 30 officers hostage in Guatemala

February 22, 2008 9:49:13 AM PST
An angry mob took 30 police officers hostage in Guatemala and threatened to kill them unless authorities release a farm leader who was detained last week, a police official said Friday. The crowd surrounded the police station in the Caribbean coastal town of Livingston on Thursday night, disarmed the agents and took them in small boats to their remote village of Maya Creek, national police spokesman Faustino Sanchez told The Associated Press.

Local media estimated there were hundreds of people in the mob.

"They told us they are going to kill them one by one," Sanchez said. "We hope that after establishing negotiations we can reach some type of agreement or at least a more direct communication that will help us to get them freed."

The villagers demanded the government free Ramiro Choc, who was arrested Feb. 14 on charges of illegal land invasion, robbery and illegally holding people against their will. Choc allegedly incited community residents to invade land and take over protected nature reserves.

Maya Creek is accessible only by boat and then a half-hour walk through dense jungle, Sanchez said. The hostages have asked authorities to send negotiators instead of backup forces.