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Cuban soldiers attempt to hijack plane headed to U.S.

Two are arrested and accused of two deaths.

Published May 4, 2007


HAVANA - Fugitive army soldiers tried to hijack a U.S.-bound plane before it took off Thursday and killed a military officer they took hostage during the failed attempt, the Interior Ministry said.

The ministry blamed U.S. policies that the communist government says encourage Cubans to emigrate to the United States and also said it was a result of Washington's tolerance of violence against Cuba.

Three soldiers escaped Sunday from their military base with automatic rifles after killing a fellow soldier and wounding another. The ministry statement said one soldier was captured, and the other two commandeered a city bus before dawn Thursday and forced it to drive onto the tarmac of Havana airport's Terminal 2, which services charter flights between the Cuban capital and the United States.

The exact U.S. destination of the plane they boarded was not known, but most charter flights out of Terminal 2 fly to Miami.

Army Lt. Col. Victor Ibo Acuna Velazquez was killed aboard the plane, which was empty of crew and passengers, the ministry statement said.

"Despite being unarmed, he heroically tried to prevent the commission of the terrorist act, " the ministry statement said of the officer killed.

The bus passengers were unharmed and the two fugitive soldiers were arrested.

The men were identified as Leandro Cerezo Sirut and Alain Forbus Lameru, both 19, and Yoan Torres Martinez, 21. It was not immediately clear which two were involved in the attempted hijacking.

[Last modified May 4, 2007, 01:01:26]

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