Three boys, two girls, four men and two women, ranging in ages from four to 57, were killed in the attack.
 
Three other people were hospitalised for gunshot wounds.

The village is known as a stronghold of support for the ruling People's Progressive Party-Civic, elected in 2006 in the country's first peaceful election in recent history.

Ethnic tensions

Bharrat Jagdeo, Guyana's president, said that the killings were an attempt to inflame ethnic tensions between African and Indian Guyanese.

"These are animals and we have to hunt them down"

Bharrat Jagdeo, Guyana's president
"These are animals and we have to hunt them down," Jagdeo said.

Tensions between the Indian majority and Afro-Guyanese boiled over into rioting after elections in 1992, 1997 and 2001.

In the neighboring town of Mon Repos, the murders prompted angry protests over the government's seeming inability to control gang violence.

At least 300 people flooded into the streets, burning tires, refrigerators and other debris and blocking the main roads.

Some of the protesters vowed to form vigilante groups and avenge the killings, shouting "We want justice".

Police attacked

The killings in Lusignan occurred several hours after an armed assault late on Friday night on the heavily fortified headquarters of Guyana's police.

Henry Greene, the police commissioner, told reporters that two policemen suffered minor injuries during the assault, the first armed attack on the police headquarters.

He said spent shells recovered from the scene indicated that the gunmen had used M-16 rifles.

Earlier in the week, armed men near the village of Buxton clashed with Guyanese soldiers, leaving one soldier dead and another seriously injured.

The three attacks followed telephone threats purportedly issued to the police by the country's most wanted man, Rondell Rawlins, who's common-law wife recently disappeared.

They also came amid allegations that two civilians and several soldiers were tortured in separate incidents by officers of the Guyana Defence Force.

The security forces believe that Rawlins is the head of an eight-year-old gang of about 20 heavily armed men engaged in "urban warfare."