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Cuban ferry hijackers executed - state TV

Cubans watch the hijacked ferry being towed into harbor last week.
Cubans watch the hijacked ferry being towed into harbor last week.

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HAVANA, Cuba (CNN) -- Cuba has executed three men convicted of hijacking a passenger ferry to sail to the U.S., Cuban state-run television reported Friday.

The firing squad sentences were carried out immediately after a Cuban court found the men guilty of terrorism.

They were part of a gang of approximately 10 involved in the April 2 hijacking in which the ferry, carrying at least 30 men, women and children, was forced to sail into the Straits of Florida, but ran out of fuel 30 miles from Havana.

Cuban officials towed it back to the Port of Mariel.

In a statement, the Cuban government said: "The maximum sentences [were] given out ... in response to these dangerous acts by the hijackers, [who] not only endangered the lives of many innocent people, but also endangered the security of the country."

During the hijack ordeal three passengers were released because of their physical conditions.

But the gang held knives to the throats of others and threatened to kill them if the vessel was not given enough fuel to carry them to the United States.

President Fidel Castro joined attempts to persuade the hijackers to free the passengers.

After about three hours, military officials boarded the ship and freed the hostages without firing a shot.

The executions come in the wake of two plane hijackings in recent weeks and amid a crackdown on civil liberties that has unfolded as world attention has been focused on Iraq.

Since the U.S.-led war on Iraq began last month, 75 dissidents have been sentenced to as many as 27 years in prison.

CNN Miami Bureau Chief John Zarrella contributed to this story.

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