St Lucia minister apologises for gay attack on tourists

St Lucia's Tourism Minister Allen Chastanet has insisted the country welcomes gay visitors, after three American men were attacked and robbed in their rented holiday home in the mountains in Soufriere.

He called the attack 'unacceptable' and has apologised to the holidaymakers.

One of the victims, Michael Baker, told reporters how he and his companion, Nick Smith, were showering when they heard their friend Todd Wiggins screaming in another part of the property. Mr Baker said he left the bathroom to find masked men beating Wiggins.

According to Mr Baker, the attackers then beat and tied up all three men.

He says the robbers made slurs against gays, white people and Americans, and threatened to kill them if they didn't leave the island.

Police say two suspects have been arrested, and three more are being sought.

'They began to tell us that they hated white people. They hated (gays),' Baker said 'They told us they had been watching us, and they hated us, and wanted us off the island. They said they would kill us if we did not leave.'

The police said the robbers took about $1,800 in cash and some personal items, adding that one of the men was treated for minor injuries at a hospital, and they all left St. Lucia soon after. However, Mr Baker later emailed the Associated Press and said two laptops, a watch and several thousand dollars were taken, and that he and Mr Wiggins were both treated in hospital for their wounds.

Mr Chastanet issued an apology to the men and said that St Lucia - which depends almost entirely on tourism - was a 'typically peaceful and a safe place for all kinds of travelers'. He said the attack was 'unacceptable behavior and our destination will not tolerate it.'

Police say they have arrested two suspects over the assault and robbery, and are looking for three more.
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