Cuba says three die in attempted hijacking

HAVANA -- Three hijackers died in a shootout among themselves and seriously injured a 10-year-old boy as they attempted to hijack a fishing boat to the United States, Cuba's Interior Ministry said Tuesday.

The three hijackers, all alleged to have "terrible criminal backgrounds," were with a woman and her two sons as they tried to seize the fishing boat Monday morning at the port of La Coloma, some 100 miles west of Havana, officials said.

"The objective of the delinquents was to travel to the United States," the Interior Ministry said.

The Interior Ministry said it was still investigating the details, but said this much was clear:

The attackers, using a .45-caliber pistol and a knife, overpowered a guard at the dock, seized his revolver and got on board the boat, named Ferrocemento No. 18.

Unable to start the vessel, the attackers forced the captain of another boat to help them, but he escaped by jumping into the water.

As other fishermen and authorities blocked the boat's path, the three men threatened to kill the woman and her sons, ages 17 and 10.

About an hour later, witnesses heard several shots before the 17-year-old emerged from the vessel carrying his 10-year-old brother, bleeding from a gunshot to the head, accompanied by the woman. All were taken to a nearby hospital.

After more than an hour of silence, officials boarded the vessel and found two men shot dead. The third was injured, but died a short time later.

The 17-year-old told police the kidnappers shot his brother and then tried to kill him, but the gun misfired. A shootout then ensued among the hijackers, he said.

The ministry said the mother is suspected of conspiring with the kidnappers, but had not yet been questioned because she was attending to her injured son, who was expected to survive. Neither the woman nor her sons were named by officials.

The attackers were identified as Francisco Lamas Caron, 29; Luis Alberto Suarez Acosta, 22; and Yosvani Martinez Acosta, 27. All had been jailed repeatedly previously on charges of cattle theft. Lamas twice was imprisoned for armed robbery, officials said.

On April 3, three men hijacked a ferry in Havana Bay and tried to force its crew to sail to the United States. Cuban authorities raided the boat the next day when it was forced to return to the communist island. The men were executed April 11, prompting international condemnation.