Sunday 3 March 2013

Crime spree on Panama-Costa Rica border may be same "five masked men"

Bribrí, near Las Delicias on the other side of the border
Panamanian police are saying that early in the morning of Thursday, February 28, a band of Costa Rican criminals crossed the border and, while robbing a store, killed a person under 17 years-old and wounded two others.

This happened after 18 American tourists were robbed in Talamanca, Limon, in southern Costa Rica near the border with Panama, on Wednesday. The tourists at the Samasati Nature Retreat were held at gunpoint, and their hotel rooms were ransacked, but no one was physically hurt other than one person who was allegedly punched in the face. Approximately $6,000 in cash and belongings were stolen.

Authorities are not ruling out that the two events could be related, nor that they could be connected to another attack on Thursday, in which three Canadian tourists were robbed in their vacation property.
Manzanillo - where the Canadians' home was robbed

The Limon canton in Costa Rica lies directly on the border with Panama, with a portion tucked along the Caribbean Sea so that Panama lies to the south and west.

The attack on the store occurred in the Panamanian town of Las Delicias, which is only 50 meters from the Sixaola River and two kilometers from Bribrí, in the Talamanca canton in Costa Rica. According to press reports, the assailants threatened several family members, after which one of them made the fatal mistake of confronting the attackers. This resulted in the shooting of the three people – all members of a family of Jordanian origin that owned the shop.

The three were taken by boat to Costa Rica and then by ambulance to a clinic at Hone Creek. There, the young person died. The other two family members are reportedly stable and out of danger.
Location of the Samasati Nature Retreat

A witness to the attack on the store, the Panamanian journalist Élmer Quintero, said that the assailants had “tico” (Costa Rican) accents and that after the attack they fled into the mountains. A vehicle has been found near Las Delicias that apparently contained weapons, and in Costa Rica on the road linking Hone Creek and Bribri two individuals were detained in a vehicle in which arms were found, and which authorities say could be linked to the attack in Panama.

The attack on the store in Panama allegedly involved five masked individuals. They had been admitted to the premises, where the family that owned the store lived in the back. And in the incident at the Samasati Nature Retreat in Costa Rica there were also five masked men. Apparently two of the men held the tourists and a guard captive while the other three ransacked the rooms.

The assailants then stole a hotel vehicle and shot out the tires of other vehicles. Reports that the hotel owner was shot when he was awakened by the gunfire have not been confirmed.

The Samasati Nature Retreat in Costa Rica includes ten cabanas and is located only 800 meters from Hone Creek, right on the border with Panama and six kilometers from Puerto Viejo.  

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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