Dead Irishman may have been involved in failed plot to kill President of Bolivia
A senior official from the Irish Embassy in Argentina is travelling to Bolivia to investigate reports that an Irishman has been killed by police.
According to news reports from Bolivia, the Irishman was one of three men killed when police foiled a plot to assassinate President Evo Morales and the country’s vice President on Thursday morning.
A Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman told RTE that it was still unclear whether there was any involvement by an Irish citizen in the plot, but that it would send an official to establish the truth behind the reports.
Media reports from Bolivia said officers attempted to arrest the men but they fled to a hotel where a shootout took place in the city of Santa Cruz.
It was also reported the shooting lasted 30 minutes, and at one stage the alleged assassins detonated a grenade in the hotel.
Last night The Times reported that Bolivia's police chief General Victor Hugo Escobar said two Hungarians and a Bolivian, who were believed to be part of a conspiracy to kill Mr Morales, were killed in the gunfight at a hotel in the eastern Bolivian city.
It also reported that a second Hungarian was arrested along with a retired Bolivian soldier who had fought in conflicts in Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
Bolivian police raided a storage facility in a nearby park, confiscating explosives, high-calibre telescopic weapons and what appeared to be travel plans for President Morales's motorcade, General Escobar added.
The police chief also said that all three of the dead sported similar tattoos, suggesting they were all trained in the same paramilitary centre, and described them as “very dangerous and determined to launch attacks”.
He further linked them to the group responsible for a failed dynamite attack on the home of Santa Cruz's Roman Catholic Cardinal Julio Terrazas earlier this week.
Following the failed bid Mr Morales, a socialist and Bolivia's first indigenous president, condemned the attackers, describing them as “foreign mercenaries”.
“They are Irish, Hungarians, and of course there are no Bolivians,” he is reported to have said.
However police in the capital La Paz have said some Bolivians were involved in the plot and vice President Alvaro Garcia said at a news conference that the foreigners involved were Croats and Irish.
Mr Morales has announced several plots against him in the past but the results of investigations have never been released, causing some Bolivians to doubt their veracity.
Earlier this week he announced that he had learned of the plot against him and vice President Alvaro Garcia in recent days, ordering the men's arrest on Wednesday, The Times reported.
A statement from his office said the suspected assassins included men of Croatian and Irish nationality, along with members of Bolivia's “far right”.
He warned that other ‘cells’ of the same group still existed in Bolivia and said police would continue to hunt them down until they were all accounted for.