Guatemalan security forces launched the state of siege on December 19 in the country's north [AFP]

Men claiming to belong to Mexico's Los Zetas drug gang have threatened to launch a war in a northern Guatemalan province where the government has declared a "state of siege".

Authorities said on Tuesday that the men forced radio stations in the northern city of Coban to broadcast their threat.

The men arrived at three radio stations in the city on Monday and said they would burn the buildings down and kill the journalists if their message was not broadcast, Nery Morales, an interior ministry spokesman, said.

In the message, which radio broadcasters read out on Monday, the group threatened violence unless Alvaro Colom, the Guatemalan president, fulfils unspecified promises.

"War will start in this country, in shopping malls, schools and police stations," the message read.

State of seige

Colom's administration launched the month-long "state of siege" in the northern province of Alta Verapaz on December 19. Police say the province is a corridor for smuggling gangs from Honduras to Mexico and a haven for Mexico's Zetas drug gang.

He said on Tuesday that his forces would not back down, though he did not specifically mention the threat against the radio stations.

"We are going to keep hitting the Zetas hard. Their threats are not going to intimidate me," he said during a public event.

His government's state of siege declaration gives security forces the power to detain suspects without warrants, conduct warrantless searches and interrogate suspects while limiting freedom of movement and assembly.

As part of the crackdown on drug cartels, security officials said earlier this week that they had captured nearly two dozen suspected drug traffickers, automatic weapons and small planes in the biggest blow yet to the Zetas gang.

The Zetas, originally formed by Mexican army deserters, once the armed wing of Mexico's Gulf Cartel. But they broke off on their own and are now fighting their former employers for control of valuable drug trafficking routes.

Source: Agencies