Latin America & Caribbean

Guatemala jailbreak: Prisoner freed by armed gang

Relatives of murdered footballer Carlos Mercedes Vasquez mourn beside his coffin on 29 November 2010
Image caption The rescued prisoner is accused of murdering local football star Carlos Mercedes Vasquez

Gunmen in Guatemala have stormed a prison near the Mexican border and freed a suspected murderer.

About 20 men with assault rifles and grenade-launchers attacked the jail in the town of Malacatan and then escaped in a convoy of vehicles pursued by the Guatemalan army and police.

A police officer and a passer-by were killed in the gun battle, police said.

The prisoner who escaped was accused of the kidnap and murder of a local footballer last month.

There was an intense firefight in the streets of Malacatan as the security forces tried to stop the raiders from getting away. As well as the two fatalities, four soldiers and several bystanders were wounded, police said.

Roadblocks have been set up and a helicopter has been searching the area in San Marcos Province in western Guatemala.

Dismembered

The rescued prisoner, Elmer Aroldo Zelada Galdamez, was arrested last week for alleged involvement in the kidnap and murder last month of footballer Carlos Mercedes Vasquez, who played for the local first division team Malacatecos.

The football star's dismembered body was found 28 November, dumped in five plastic bags with a note accusing him of "messing with the women of others".

Mr Zelada is also suspected of involvement in several other murders.

Guatemala has one of the highest murder rates in the world, with many of the killings blamed on organized criminal gangs that have links to Mexico's violent drugs cartels.

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