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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 July, 2003, 21:15 GMT 22:15 UK
Three killed in Cuban hijacks

By Stephen Gibbs
BBC correspondent in Havana

The Cuban authorities say three people have been killed in one of two hijacking attempts which have taken place on the island in the last couple of days.

In the first, three armed men had apparently attempted to seize a fishing boat and sail to the United States but they were killed following a shoot-out, possibly amongst themselves.

Fidel Castro
Cuba blames the US for the hijacking problem
In the second attempt, another boat was stolen and sailed with around 30 people on board towards the Bahamas.

Cuba says that three men armed with pistols, a woman and her two children were involved in the attempt to hijack a small fishing boat from western Cuba.

They initially tried to take the owner hostage but he escaped.

When the group found they could not start the boat's engine, they were soon surrounded by other fishing boats and Cuban security forces.

The hijackers apparently then threatened to kill the women and children.

After a standoff lasting an hour, a shoot-out began. It is not clear if the Cuban security authorities were involved in this.

The first to be wounded was a 10-year-old boy, who was shot in the face. He is expected to survive.

All three men on board the boat have been killed.

'Cuba blames US'

This was the first reported hijacking in Cuba since April, when the Cuban Government controversially executed three men who intended to sail a ferry to the United States.

It has been followed by another, apparently successful attempt early on Tuesday when a State-owned vessel with around 30 people on board was sailed from central Cuba to the Bahamas.

Cuba has - as it always does - blamed the United States for the problem.

It says the US policy of granting asylum to Cubans who set foot on US soil encourages hijacking. The US has stressed that its asylum policy does not extend to hijackers.




SEE ALSO:
Cuban hijackers jailed
17 May 03  |  Americas
Country profile: Cuba
04 Jun 03  |  Country profiles



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