PORT-OF-SPAIN, TRINIDAD, JULY 28 -- Moslem rebels holding the prime minister and other officials hostage in Trinidad and Tobago tonight demanded a plane to fly to Libya, the Caribbean News Agency said.

The Moslem group, which seized parliament and the state-run television station Friday night in a coup attempt, made the demand after wiring Prime Minister Arthur Robinson and other hostages to explosives and threatening to blow them up if government forces tried to free them.

The news agency said Robinson had been shot in the leg after refusing to sign a document the rebels had submitted to him.

The agency quoted a top police officer as saying rebel leader Yasin Abu Bakr had demanded the aircraft to fly his group, the Jamaat Muslimeen, to Libya after reaching a cease-fire agreement with Trinidad authorities. Trinidad officials have said that the group is linked to Libya and that Abu Bakr has met Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi.

The truce and the demand for passage to Libya came after the Anglican bishop of Trinidad and Tobago, Clive Abdullah, and the Roman Catholic archbishop, Anthony Pantin, met with Abu Bakr for talks at his headquarters in the television station. Government radio tonight urged both the military and the radicals to cooperate with negotiators and stressed that police units should "follow official orders and refrain from shooting."

The radio reported a gunbattle late tonight, after the truce announcement, according to the Associated Press. It said four people were wounded in a clash between police and civilians outside the television station.

Government troops had surrounded the parliament building earlier in the day and fought sporadic battles in the capital with the Moslem gunmen -- estimated to number between 250 and 500 -- who were armed with AK-47 assault rifles. The Caribbean News Agency, based in Barbados, quoted hospital sources as saying that about 22 persons, including several police officers, had been killed in such battles since the coup attempt began.

At least three others were reported killed when the radical group stormed into a parliament session Friday and seized 20 officials.

The government radio said there were "lots of wounded" in today's fighting and appealed for doctors and nurses to go to hospitals.

Abu Bakr said in a television broadcast this morning that he had overthrown Robinson's government and that charges were to be brought against the prime minister and members of his cabinet.

Abu Bakr's group released eight captives before dawn today after mediation by an Anglican priest. Those freed included two government ministers. The rebels held their captives in the ornate parliamentary chamber and had taken barricaded positions on the street outside.

The White House said today that President Bush was "following the situation carefully" with national security adviser Brent Scowcroft in Kennebunkport, Maine, and said the United States maintained "strong support" for Robinson's government.

{In Kennebunkport, presidential spokeswoman Alixe Glen said no U.S. citizens appear to be in danger in Trinidad, a popular tourist site, the Associated Press reported.}

Emeka Anyaoku, secretary general of the Commonwealth, the group of 50 former British colonies that includes Trinidad and Tobago, condemned the coup attempt, telling the British Broadcasting Corp.: "There is no way the region as a whole and the Commonwealth in general can accept a situation where democracy can be turned over in that way."

The acting president of Trinidad, Emanuel Carter, declared in a pre-dawn radio broadcast that the government was imposing a state of emergency and an indefinited curfew. Carter, is filling in while President Noor Hassanali is on vacation in Britain

A spokesman for Deputy Prime Minister Winston Dookeran said the government was in control of the situation, which he described as "a mass kidnapping."

"We are victims . . . of extremists, particularly backed by Libya and other international hoodlums," Dookeran's spokesman said in a television interview in which he appealed for international help.

Police headquarters, set on fire early in the coup attempt, stood destroyed today. At dawn, many fires were visible for miles under towering plumes of black smoke. Looters were seen dashing down streets with shoes, blue jeans and bolts of fabric under their arms.

The capital's airport remained closed, as it had been since shortly after the coup attempt began.

Trinidad and Tobago has been hit hard by a fall in the price of oil and unemployment has hit 20 percent. Robinson has imposed unpopular austerity measures to combat economic decline.

Abu Bakr seized control of the state-run television station at about 6:30 p.m. Friday. He went on the air several times during the night and railed against the government.

Abu Bakr, a former policeman, said in an early-morning broadcast that his group intended to urge Trinidad residents to take to the streets. He said the government was responsible for a wave of corruption, rape, incest, robbery and drugs sweeping the country.

The Associated Press also reported the following:

Abu Bakr is a fundamentalist who has built support in Trinidad's poor black community.

In Washington, however, a spokesman at the Trinidad and Tobago Embassy questioned whether that support extended to the coup attempt. The Jamaat Muslimeen "seem to champion the causes of poor people in Trinidad and Tobago, but I'm not sure they enjoy popular support in this particular crisis," embassy First Secretary Roger Moore said.

The 10-year-old group has an eight-acre commune in western Port of Spain, where more than 250 men, women and children live. There is a mosque, day care center, school and kitchens for the homeless.

Abu Bakr has often said Islamic principles must dominate society. Most Moslems here are east Indians who generally disdain the radical politics of such black Moslem groups as the Jamaat Muslimeen.


LAND: The island of Trinidad is in the Caribbean about eight miles off northeastern Venezuela. The smaller island of Tobago lies about 20 miles farther to the northeast. Together, they cover 1,978 square miles, about 1 1/2 times the size of Rhode Island. The capital is Port of Spain. The terrain consists of plains and low mountains. The climate is tropical.

PEOPLE: The nation has a population of about 1.3 million, all but 45,000 residing on Trinidad. Most of the people are of African or East Indian origin. Trinidadians of mixed race make up slightly more than 16 percent. Whites comprise 1.7 percent. The two major folk traditions are Creole, a mixture of African elements influenced by Spanish, French and English culture, and East Indian. About 33 percent are Roman Catholics, 24.5 percent Hindus, 15 percent Anglicans and about 6 percent Moslems. The language is English.

ECONOMY: Trinidad and Tobago's exports consist mainly of petroleum and petroleum products, fertilizers, chemicals, sugar and cocoa. It has a small tourism industry, with a famous reef for divers off Tobago and a carnival in Port of Spain. The nation is largely dependent on imported food.

HISTORY: Columbus discovered Trinidad on his third voyage to the New World in 1498. Spain made the first successful attempt to colonize the island in 1592 and Spanish rule continued until Trinidad was captured by the British in 1797. Abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire in 1833 led to a wave of immigration from India that went on until 1915. Trinidad and Tobago were merged in 1888. After briefly being part of an autonomous Federation of the West Indies with Jamaica, Barbados and the Leeward and Windward Islands, Trinidad and Tobago became independent and joined the Commonwealth in 1962.

GOVERNMENT: The nation has a bicameral legislature of Senate and House of Representatives. The cabinet consists of the prime minister, appointed by the president, and other ministers.

SOURCE: Associated Press