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Cubans Kill Suspected U.S. Smuggler

April 07, 2006|From Times Wire Services

HAVANA — The Cuban coast guard shot at three suspected migrant smugglers from the United States, killing one, after the trio refused orders to halt their boat near the island, official media reported Thursday.

The Communist Party daily Granma said the confrontation occurred Wednesday near Cuba's southern coast in the western province of Pinar del Rio.

The coast guard official in charge ordered officers to open fire after the three-man crew aboard the 40-foot boat failed to stop and instead rammed a coast guard vessel, the report said.

It said that two men aboard the U.S.-based boat were wounded and taken to a hospital, where one died.

Cuban authorities said the identity of the dead man was not immediately known because he did not have any documents and the other two men were not cooperating.

The two others carried U.S. passports identifying them as Rafael Mesa Farinas and Rosendo Salgado Castro. It was unclear which of them was wounded or how seriously.

Drew Blakeney, spokesman for the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, said U.S. authorities had confirmed the names of the two surviving men and that they were United States citizens.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in Washington that it would be "deeply disturbing" if the dead man was an American.

Cuban authorities later took into custody 39 people -- 20 men, 12 women and seven children -- they believed had been planning to leave the island aboard the speedboat.

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