Officer slain by Cuban draftees is honored

May 5, 2007

Miami Herald- Frances Robles

A medal for bravery was awarded posthumously Friday to the Cuban lieutenant colonel taken hostage and killed by AWOL draftees, as he was laid to rest with military honors, the Cuban media reported.

Lt. Col. Víctor Ibo Acuña, a communications officer, was killed early Thursday when two soldiers who had deserted their military base hijacked the city bus he was riding in.

BUS HIJACKING

The conscripts forced the bus to Havana's José Martí Airport, and marched the hostages aboard an empty airliner.

Once in the cabin, an unarmed Acuña, 41, was shot four times when he tried to prevent the hijacking, the Cuban government said.

He left behind a wife and two daughters, ages 9 and 5.

The two deserters were subsequently captured.

They and a third soldier on Sunday fled their military base in Managua, southeast of the airport, the Cuban government said.

In their bold escape attempt, they stole two AK assault rifles and killed another soldier guarding the base.

One of the deserters was captured with help from the community in a massive manhunt that followed.

The man told authorities that the purpose of the escape was to flee the island, the Ministry of Interior said in a statement.

U.S. POLICY BLAMED

The statement, published in today's Cuban newspapers, blamed U.S. immigration policy for encouraging Cubans to migrate illegally.

Acuña, credited for 'heroically trying to avoid this terrorist act' was buried with full honors in a Pinar del Río funeral.

Photos published by the province's Guerrillero newspaper showed a flag-draped coffin flanked by soldiers wearing fatigues, white gloves and black armbands.

'This is a very painful moment for my family,' his brother Isidoro Acuña told the Spanish news agency

EFE.

Translator Renato Pérez contributed to this report.


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