April 19, 2006

Guatemalan mob kills two suspected child snatchers

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - A furious Guatemalan mob seized
a man and a woman accused of stealing a child and burned them
to death on the streets of a highland Mayan village on
Wednesday, police said.

A crowd of around 800 people snatched the couple from a
jail in the village of Sumpango, 25 miles southwest of
Guatemala City, where they were being held for attempting to
kidnap a 7-year-old boy, police spokesman Isidro Ramos said.

"The people ... took them out of the jail, beat them until
they were unconscious and then burned them with gasoline before
anyone could intervene," Ramos told Reuters.

He said the dead couple were Guatemalan nationals. It was
not immediately clear if any arrests had been made.

A persistent myth in some Mayan communities in Guatemala is
that foreigners come to steal children to sell them or their
body parts abroad.

In 2000 a Japanese tourist and a Guatemalan bus driver were
killed in a rural Indian market after being attacked by a mob
who thought they were there to steal children.

Lynch mobs have killed at least 360 people in the
impoverished and crime-ridden Central American country since
1996, when it emerged from a 36-year civil war that killed
200,000 people, mostly Mayan peasants.

Many experts blame the killings on exposure to violence
during the war, combined with a lack of faith in the criminal
justice system.