'Passengers of burnt Guatemalan bus were slain'
Guatemala City, Nov 11 (IANS) Guatemalan authorities have said 16 people thought to have been burnt to death in a bus fire in an eastern rural area Sunday were slain by a criminal gang, EFE reported Tuesday.
Attorney General Amilcar Velasquez told reporters that 'the massacre was carried out by a group of criminals who by burning the bodies tried to avoid leaving behind any evidence of their crime'.
He said police found at the crime site empty shell casings and a plastic kitchen utensil bearing traces of gasoline which was presumably used to cause the fire.
Meanwhile, police spokesman Donald Gonzalez said that as a result of the evidence found at the crime scene the case 'is being handled as a criminal case.'
Gonzalez said that the roof of the bus was torn apart before the bus was set on fire, indicating that the attackers 'were looking for drugs, money or some other contraband.'
The bodies and the bus were found Sunday on a rural dirt road in Zacapa province.
Police said the spot where the burnt bus was found is not used as a motorway, adding that the criminals presumably towed the vehicle on the dirt road after killing the people.
Authorities had said initially that the victims were Guatemalan peasants who worked on nearby fruit plantations but withdrew the statement after it was found that there were 15 Nicaraguans and a Dutch tourist.
In February 2007, four Salvadoran legislators and their driver were murdered in similar circumstances in a rural area in eastern Guatemala.
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