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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 March, 2005, 05:50 GMT
Nine die in Costa Rica bank siege
US tourists run from shoot-out scene
Tourists ran for shelter as the siege began
Nine people were killed in Costa Rica after gunmen took hostages during a robbery-turned-siege at a bank in a western mountain town.

A group of men tried to rob the bank in the town of Santa Elena de Monteverde but the raid turned into a shoot-out.

The men took a group of about 20 people hostage but 15 of those taken managed to escape or were released.

Officials said five people in the bank, three robbers and a security agent were killed during the day-long siege.

The final gunman surrendered to police negotiators outside the bank when he realised he could not escape.

"It was possible to disarm him without having to offer anything," Security Minister Rogelio Ramos said according to Reuters news agency.

Map of Costa Rica

One police officer, who some reports said was a senior presidential security official, and a hostage died when police tried to raid the bank to regain control of the building shortly after midday on Wednesday.

According to Reuters, at least 19 people were injured during the siege, many of them suffering from gunshot wounds.

Among them was a woman who had been shot in the shoulder and another who was several months pregnant, according to the Red Cross.

One of those who escaped, Alexander Arguedas, said in a television interview that the gunmen entered the bank while shooting, the Associated Press news agency reports.

"I saw wounded, among them the guard, a boy who was dead and another girl who could only be seen by her shoes, who did not move," he said.

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