Honduran gang mows down 18 people

2010-09-08 11:06

Tegucigalpa - Men armed with assault rifles burst into a shoe factory and opened fire on Tuesday, killing at least 18 workers and wounding five, Honduran authorities said.

National police spokesperson Leonel Sauceda called the attack in the northern city of San Pedro Sula "a massacre".

Authorities initially reported 15 dead, but three of the injured later died of their wounds, said assistant police commissioner Hector Ivan Mejia.

"Apparently the massacre was carried out as part of a turf battle between small-scale drug gangs, given that that neighbourhood has conflicts because of the presence of gang members," Mejia said.

San Pedro Sula has been a hotbed of gunfights between drug traffickers and among the country's Mara street gangs.

Street protest

Sauceda said at least four men using assault rifles were involved in the attack at the small shoe factory. He said 23 employees were present and all were either killed or wounded.

Also on Tuesday, thousands of supporters of former President Manuel Zelaya staged street protests in the capital, Tegucigalpa, to demand the ousted leader's return as well as a 15% rise in the minimum wage, currently about $290 a month.

Zelaya was removed in a June 2009 coup, and his term expired in January. He was replaced by Porfirio Lobo, who won a fall presidential elections that had been scheduled before Zelaya's ouster.

Lobo has said Zelaya, who has been living in the Dominican Republic, is welcome to return to Honduras, but says he must face charges of fraud, usurping other institutions' powers and falsifying documents.

The demonstrators included unionised workers, government employees and students. They blocked traffic in at least two points in the city, and demonstrations were held in other cities.

One small group of masked protesters shattered windows at a television station, the offices of the country's Human Rights Commission and a bank branch.