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Mysterious group plotted to kill Bolivian Prez

Bolivian police foiled an alleged plot to assassinate President Evo Morales, killing three men in a 30-minute gunbattle with a mysterious group that included suspects from Hungary, Ireland and possibly Croatia, government officials said on Thursday.

world Updated: Apr 17, 2009 23:55 IST

Bolivian police foiled an alleged plot to assassinate President Evo Morales, killing three men in a 30-minute gunbattle with a mysterious group that included suspects from Hungary, Ireland and possibly Croatia, government officials said on Thursday.

Police had attempted to arrest the men in the centre of Santa Cruz, an eastern Bolivian city and hub of anti-Morales sentiment, but they fled to a hotel where an intense shootout took place around 4 a.m., witnesses and police said.

The alleged assassins detonated a grenade inside the hotel, blowing out its windows amid the gunfight, according to police. Three of the suspects, identified by state media as Hungarian, Irish and Bolivian, were killed.

A second Hungarian was arrested, along with a retired Bolivian soldier who had fought in conflicts in Yugoslavia in the 1990s, state prosecutor Jorge Gutierrez said.

Police raided a storage facility in a nearby park, confiscating explosives, high-caliber telescopic weapons and what appeared to be travel plans for Morales' motorcade, Police Commander Victor Hugo Escobar told reporters.

The group is also responsible for a failed dynamite attack on the home of Santa Cruz's Roman Catholic Cardinal Julio Terrazas on Wednesday, police said.

It was unclear, though, why a group of alleged anti-Morales assassins would attack Terrazas, who is known to support the president's opponents who control much of Bolivia's farm and natural gas wealth in the lowland east around Santa Cruz.