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Guatemalan Mob Burns Suspect

April 10, 2001

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) _ An angry mob burned a suspected robber to death and held hostage 15 police officers and a local judge for several hours in Guatemala’s rural, northern highlands Monday, authorities said.

More than 300 people from around the Mayan hamlet of Salaquil, 200 miles north of Guatemala City, captured 25-year-old Victor Choc in the wee hours of the morning Monday and accused him of heading a local gang responsible for a rash of local car thefts and armed robberies, said Faustino Sanchez, a spokesman for Guatemala’s national police force.

``The mob was extremely agitated when they captured the suspected delinquent,″ Sanchez said. ``The group was ready to make him pay with blood.″

After hours of pelting Choc with stones and burning him with torches, the mob told a group of local police officers Monday that it was ready to release its prisoner and head home.

When five offers arrived to put an end to the standoff, however, the mob staged a public trial and burned Choc alive, Sanchez said.

When another 10 officers and a local judge showed up to claim Choc’s body the mob surrounded the authorities, preventing anyone from leaving, Sanchez said.

Sanchez said the ``extremely tense″ standoff came to an end Monday night when local police officers arrested two other robbery suspects and the mob to let their hostages go.

Vigilante violence has become relatively commonplace in Guatemala since the December 1996 end of a civil war which pitted leftist, largely Mayan guerrillas against state forces and killed 200,000 Guatemalans.

On March 13, more than 1,000 people in the largely Mayan municipality of Senahu, 40 miles from Salaquil, stoned a judge to death.

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