The Cuban inmates who took a jail warden and six others hostage to demand their release ended a six-day standoff tonight with an apparent agreement to be sent back to Cuba.
"They surrendered because they are going to Cuba," said Mercedes Villar, mother of one of the hostage-takers, who was outside the prison as the warden was brought out on a stretcher.
Charles Mathews, head of the New Orleans FBI office, refused to talk about the negotiations at a news conference announcing that the hostages had been freed and appeared unharmed.
The FBi did, however, credit Villar and a chaplain with helping to resolve the standoff, which began Monday.
Villar said she read the agreement and that Fidel Castro had agreed to take the five Cubans and one Bahamian, despite Cuba having no agreement with the United States for such a transfer. Villar's account was backed by Maggie Garcia, who said she was a girlfriend of one of the hostage-takers.
The inmates had been holding Warden Todd Louvierre, a female guard and five female inmates at knifepoint. The warden and guard were taken to a hospital for observation. There was no word on the female inmates.
The uprising began when the inmates, being held for deportation by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, armed themselves with homemade knives and took the warden and three guards hostage while being escorted to an exercise area.
One guard was released after about six hours. A second was released Thursday night.
Two Cuban hostage-takers surrendered late Thursday. The others somehow lost control of the jail command post, with its switches for the facility's electric locks. They spent the last two days in the warden's office, a cramped space with no bathroom.
Although they have completed their U.S. sentences, the Cubans were being held indefinitely in a state of limbo because of the lack of a deportation agreement. Among them were two convicted killers--Lazaro Elisante Orta, who has been in INS custody since 1997, and Anthony Deveaux, in INS custody since 1998.