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Last Updated: Monday, 28 January 2008, 10:48 GMT
Guyana deaths spark village anger
Road near Lusignan
Several roads were blocked with burning tyres and other debris
Angry villagers are blockading Guyana's main east-west highway, in response to a weekend rampage by gunmen in which 11 people were killed.

The protest continued despite talks with President Bharrat Jagdeo to try to calm the situation.

The gunmen burst into the village of Lusignan east of the capital Georgetown on Saturday, firing on several houses. Five children were among the dead.

It was said to be the country's worst mass killing for more than 30 years.

Officials suspect a criminal gang acting on the orders of the country's most wanted man, Rondell Rawlins, who police say accuses government forces of kidnapping his pregnant girlfriend.

The attack has raised fears of racial strife. Lusignan is mostly ethnic Indian, while Rondell Rawlins and his followers come from the ethnic African community.

The country's 760,000 population is almost evenly split between the two communities.

$150,000 reward

Residents of Lusignan and other nearby villages blocked roads with burning tyres and other debris, hours after Mr Jagdeo promised to provide them with weapons and other resources to help police their communities.

Police have also offered a reward of $150,000 for Mr Rawlins' capture.

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But villagers say security forces have done too little to combat the gang, which has been active for the past six years.

In Saturday's incident, unidentified gunmen kicked down the doors of five wooden houses in Lusignan, shooting at inhabitants within.

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.

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

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!"

Telephone threats

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.

The gang is said to consist of about 20 heavily armed men engaged in "urban warfare". Mr Rawlins is also wanted over the murder of a government minister in 2006.

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



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

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