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Defense Minister Resigns Over Guatemalan Military Massacre

October 9, 1995

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) _ The defense minister was replaced and a regional army commander was ousted Monday, less than a week after military personnel killed 11 former exiles who had returned to Guatemala.

A terse presidential press office announcement said Gen. Marco Antonio Gonzalez Taracena was named defense minister in place of Gen. Mario Rene Enriquez Morales, who resigned.

Col. Sammy Noe Vasquez Benavente, Commander of the 21st Military Zone, where the killing occurred, was ousted from his job. The zone is in northern Alta Verapaz province, near the Mexican border.

Twenty-four soldiers facing charges for the killings are under detention at the Coban military base.

Eleven people were killed and 18 wounded, included three soldiers, in a confused shooting incident in the town of Ximan, home to 440 former refugees who had returned from Mexico.

The townspeople, mostly peasants, are among the 40,000 who fled guerrilla fighting a decade ago in northern Guatemala. At least 140,000 people have been killed in the civil war, which has been going on for four decades.

Army spokesmen said at the time of the killings that a passing military patrol was ``invited″ by residents to visit the town and people then roughed up the soldiers, stole their rifles and started firing.

Rights activists blame the army, saying the soldiers went in and fired.

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