Saturday, April 18, 2009

Bolivia gang 'fought in Balkans'

Two members of a mercenary gang said to have plotted to kill Bolivian President Evo Morales were veterans of the Balkan wars of the 1990s, reports say.

Three died and two were arrested in the eastern city of Santa Cruz after police fought a gunbattle with the group.

Bolivian police officials said two of the five fought for Croatian independence. The three others are said to be Irish, Romanian and Hungarian.

They were said to be planning attacks on government and opposition figures.

Chief among the suspected targets was Bolivian President Evo Morales, but Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linera and Santa Cruz Governor Ruben Costas, a bitter opponent of Mr Morales, were also targeted, police said.

There has been no immediate explanation of why the alleged plotters would target government and opposition targets alike.

Mr Costas has questioned the government's information, accusing it of "mounting a show" aimed at discrediting the opposition.

'Paramilitary links'

Revealing details of the alleged mercenary gang, police chief Victor Hugo Escobar said prosecutors were now seeking "clear and concrete information".

The group, suspected by authorities of being behind a dynamite attack on the home of a Catholic cardinal earlier in the week, was tracked down on Thursday to a hotel in Santa Cruz, some 900km (620 miles) east of the capital, La Paz.