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1,500 Soliders Raid Chiapas Region

April 9, 1998

SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico (AP) _ About 1,500 heavily armed soldiers and police carried out a massive raid in a neighborhood in southern Chiapas in a search for guns and kidnap suspects.

Police arrested three men on outstanding warrants for weapons trafficking and kidnapping during the early morning raid Wednesday on the La Hormiga neighborhood in San Cristobal, 460 miles east of Mexico City.

San Cristobal Mayor Rolando Villafuerte said the purpose of the raid is to ``cut off the harmful trade in weapons″ that reportedly operates in the neighborhood, which is largely populated by Protestant Indians.

But Miguel Angel Yanez, assistant prosecutor for the region, said that only two pistols had been seized.

Several suspects in the Dec. 22 massacre of 45 Indians in the nearby village of Acteal previously told prosecutors they bought the guns used in the killings, including assault rifles, in San Cristobal.

The La Hormiga neighborhood is largely populated by members of evangelical Protestant groups who settled here after being run out of traditionally Catholic villages in the surrounding hills over the last two decades.

Police also seized 73 automobiles.

The three arrested men are leaders of peasant organizations or unions. Five other people were detained on unspecified charges in the raid, according to police.

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