Skip to comments.Two Cuban Boats Hijacked, Three Dead
Posted on 07/16/2003 12:13:20 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
HAVANA (Reuters) - A Cuban surveyeing boat was hijacked on Tuesday and at least 10 people sailed to the Bahamas, a day after three hijackers died in a shooting during an attempt to leave Cuba on a fishing boat, officials said.
The hijackings were the first reported since Communist-run Cuba executed three men in April for seizing a Havana Bay ferry in a failed bid to reach the United States.
A boat belonging to the state marine surveyeing company GeoCuba was hijacked in the port of Nuevitas, on the north coast of the central Cuban province of Camaguey, and left at 3:50 a.m., a government statement said.
A Cuban border patrol boat followed the vessel until it entered Bahamian waters and reported that seven men were on the deck and about 20 people inside. Cuba asked the Bahamas to return the boat and its hijackers. A spokesman for the Bahamian Foreign Affairs Ministry said the twin-engined Cuban boat was believed to have 10 to 15 people on board and 200 gallons of fuel.
Mark Wilson, permanent secretary at the Bahamas Ministry of National Security, said U.S. Coast Guard and Royal Bahamas Defense Force vessels were on their way to a Bahamian cay to investigate a boat containing foreign people.
He would not name the cay but said if the boat was apprehended, its occupants would be treated as illegal immigrants and could be sent back to Cuba.
Wilson was unable to say whether the vessel had been hijacked but said if this proved to be the case, Bahamas would talk with the Cuban government before any action was taken.
In Washington, a State Department official said the U.S. Coast Guard was following the situation but gave no details. "They are monitoring the situation. We were informed by the Cuban government that this was happening," he said.
THREE DEAD IN FISHING BOAT
Earlier, the Cuban Interior Ministry said three men were shot dead and a boy was seriously wounded in the head on Monday morning while hijacking a fishing boat in western Cuba in an effort to reach the United States.
The ministry said the men, armed with a pistol and a knife, were accompanied by a woman and her two sons, aged 17 and 10, when they overpowered a guard on the quay, seized his gun and commandeered the boat in La Coloma, 20 miles south of Pinar del Rio in western Cuba.
The boat's captain threw himself overboard and the hijackers could not start the vessel, which was quickly surrounded by police, the ministry said. It added that the hijackers had threatened to kill the boys.
The ministry said the hijackers Francisco Lamas Caron, 29; Luis Alberto Suarez Acosta, 22; and Yosvani Martinez Acosta, 27, shot themselves for unknown reasons. All three had criminal records for stealing cattle, the statement said.
But their families said police shot the men after they tried to flee Cuba to avoid being arrested for stealing a pig. "The police killed them. They killed my son. There was no need to do that," said Maria Acosta Valdes, mother of Suarez.
The families said police gave them only two hours to mourn their dead, brought in coffins to their homes on Tuesday morning for quick burial.
Armed hijackings are rare in Cuba but have increased this year as economic crisis makes more Cubans want to leave. Two domestic passenger planes were hijacked to Key West, Florida, in March. In April President Fidel Castro (news - web sites)'s government executed three men who tried to hijack a Havana Bay ferry. The firing squad executions brought wide international condemnation.