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Hostage standoff continues over Mexico City airport

By Harris Whitbeck

MEXICO CITY (CNN) -- Hundreds of farmers protesting the expropriation of their land for the construction an airport on the outskirts of Mexico City continued Friday holding dozens of government officials hostage.

Federal police have been in a standoff with the protesters in the Mexico City suburb of Atenco since Thursday afternoon, when machete-wielding protesters blocked highways, burned at least four vehicles, and took a number of municipal officials and policemen hostage.

The main highways that connect the suburb to the center of Mexico City remained blocked by protesters.

Mexico City officials say they will not give in to the farmers, who are demanding the release of at least 15 people who were arrested Thursday afternoon.

Protesters have threatened to kill the hostages if their comrades are not released.

The stand-off began Thursday afternoon when farmers attempted to block a main highway 25 miles north of the capital. When police arrived, firing tear gas canisters, the farmers responded by attacking with machetes and sticks.

The airport construction has generated controversy here for months. Farmers who live on the site of the proposed facility say they are being offered too little for their land. The airport will include three runways and a huge passenger and cargo terminal.

State and federal government officials say the protesters are being manipulated by opposition political parties.




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