GUATEMALA CITY, Apr 20 (Reuters) A furious Guatemalan mob seized a man and a woman accused of stealing a child and burned them to death on the streets of a highland Mayan village on Wednesday, police said.
A crowd of around 800 people snatched the couple from a jail in the village of Sumpango yesterday, 25 miles southwest of Guatemala City, where they were being held for attempting to kidnap a 7-year-old boy, police spokesman Isidro Ramos said.
''The people ... took them out of the jail, beat them until they were unconscious and then burned them with gasoline before anyone could intervene,'' Ramos told Reuters.
He said the dead couple were Guatemalan nationals. It was not immediately clear if any arrests had been made.
A persistent myth in some Mayan communities in Guatemala is that foreigners come to steal children to sell them or their body parts abroad.
In 2000 a Japanese tourist and a Guatemalan bus driver were killed in a rural Indian market after being attacked by a mob who thought they were there to steal children.
Lynch mobs have killed at least 360 people in the impoverished and crime-ridden Central American country since 1996, when it emerged from a 36-year civil war that killed 200,000 people, mostly Mayan peasants.
Many experts blame the killings on exposure to violence during the war, combined with a lack of faith in the criminal justice system.
REUTERS PG PM0625