Separatist Group Digs In After Trading Hostages For Jailed Member

The New York Times/April 28, 1997

A married couple held captive for 12 hours by a militant separatist group said Monday they believed their armed captors were willing to kill them. Joe and Margaret Ann Rowe said at a news conference that two men and a woman from the group that calls itself the Republic of Texas, all dressed in battle-style fatigues, shot their way through the door of their home Sunday.

``It wasn't an empty threat. If somebody will come shooting in your door, they mean it,'' Mrs. Rowe said outside the Big Bend Regional Medical Center in Alpine, where her husband is recovering from shrapnel wounds to his right shoulder from the shooting. He is in stable condition. The Rowes were released early Monday after the group, which is demanding a referendum on independence for Texas, swapped them for a jailed member arrested Sunday on a weapons violation, authorities said.

``At this point, the Republic of Texas has relinquished control of the Rowes' residence where they were holding them hostage. They have moved on to another unknown location within the Fort Davis resort area,'' said Sherri Deatherage Green, a Department of Public Safety spokeswoman in Austin. Ms. Green said law enforcers were continuing to treat the standoff as a hostage situation because up to 150 residents of the resort area were unable to leave their homes.

At least three dozen officers who surrounded the mountainous subdivision remained in position Monday. Reporters were kept at a rest stop several miles from the entrance to the site, 220 miles south of El Paso, the nearest major city.

Copyright 1997 The New York Times. All rights reserved.

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