Mob Kidnaps, Threatens to Kill Dozens of Police Officers 'One by One' in Guatemala

An angry mob took about 30 police officers hostage in Guatemala and threatened to kill them unless authorities release a jailed farm leader, a police official said Friday.

The crowd surrounded the police station in the Caribbean coastal town of Livingston on Thursday night, disarmed the agents and took them in small boats to their remote village of Maya Creek, national police spokesman Faustino Sanchez told The Associated Press.

Local media estimated there were hundreds of people in the mob.

"They told us they are going to kill them one by one," Sanchez said. "We hope that after establishing negotiations we can reach some type of agreement or at least a more direct communication that will help us to get them freed."

The villagers demanded the government free Ramiro Choc, who was arrested Feb. 14 on charges of illegal land invasion, robbery and illegally holding people against their will. Choc allegedly incited community residents to invade land and take over protected nature reserves.

Maya Creek is accessible only by boat and then a half-hour walk through dense jungle, Sanchez said. The hostages have asked authorities to send negotiators instead of backup forces.

Choc urged the villagers to release the officers in a telephone call from jail that authorities arranged Thursday night, but the crowd refused, Interior Department spokesman Ricardo Gatica said.

When police first detained Choc last week, angry villagers took a judge and two police officers hostage but released them several hours later.