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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 January 2008, 00:32 GMT
Guyana shooting rampage kills 11
Protesting civilians confront troops in Lusignan after the attack
Protesting civilians confronted troops in Lusignan after the attack
Gunmen in Guyana have gone on a rampage, killing 11 people, including five children, police say.

The gunmen stormed into a village east of the capital, Georgetown, and fired into several houses.

It was reported to be the worst mass killing in the South American country for more than 30 years, and sparked angry protests by neighbours.

Officials suspect a criminal gang acting on the orders of the country's most wanted man, Rondell Rawlins.

Police say Rondell Rawlins has accused government forces of kidnapping his pregnant girlfriend, and has threatened to launch attacks until she is returned.

They didn't come here to rob, they came here to slaughter
Jag Singh
Lusignan resident

Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo deplored the attack, in the village of Lusignan, east of the capital Georgetown, as a "cowardly act" carried out by "sick, demented criminals".

"We have to hunt them down," he said.

Screaming on streets

Divisional Police Commander Leroy Brummel said unidentified gunmen kicked down the doors of five wooden houses in Lusignan, shooting at inhabitants within.

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The dead include a man, his wife and their granddaughter in one house, and a mother and her two children in another, news agency AFP reported.

"They didn't come here to rob, they came here to slaughter," a resident, Jag Singh, told AFP.

Local people screamed and wept on the streets of the village.

Later, as many as 300 people from the neighbouring town of Mon Repos started fires on the roads to Lusignan and vowed to form vigilante groups to avenge the killings.

"We want justice!" they cried. "Government can't protect us! We want more police!"

Ethnic tension

Hours before the village massacre, heavily armed gunmen had also attacked the headquarters of the Guyana police force, injuring two policemen.

On Wednesday, in the criminal haven of Buxton, east of Georgetown, gunmen engaged Guyanese soldiers in a firefight that left one soldier dead and another seriously injured.

Police said Rondell Rawlins himself had made telephone threats following the disappearance of his 18-year-old girlfriend.

He is reputed to head a gang of about 20 heavily armed men engaged in "urban warfare", and is also wanted over the murder of a government minister in 2006.

President Jagdeo suggested that the latest attack may have been meant to stir up ethnic tension. The village of Lusignan is mostly ethnic Indian, while Rondell Rawlins and his followers come from the ethnic African community.

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Villagers grieve at the scene of the massacre



SEE ALSO
Guyana minister shot dead at home
22 Apr 06 |  Americas
Guyana strives for image makeover
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Country profile: Guyana
25 Jan 08 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Guyana
22 Jan 08 |  Country profiles

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