The Department of Foreign Affairs says an official from its embassy in Argentina is travelling to Bolivia in order to establish whether an Irishman was killed during yesterday's police raid in Santa Cruz.

Police reportedly broke up a group planning to assassinate the country's two main leaders.

A Department spokesman stressed it was still unclear whether there was any involvement by an Irish citizen in the plot to kill President Evo Morales and the country's vice president.

Bolivia's Deputy Interior Minister said three people were killed and two suspects arrested in a shootout yesterday with police in the eastern city of Santa Cruz.

Police chief General Victor Hugo Escobar said two Hungarians and a Bolivian, who were believed to be part of a conspiracy to kill Mr Morales, were killed in the gunfight at a hotel in the eastern Bolivian city.

Some reports say two other people were arrested.

Mr Morales, a socialist, is Bolivia's first indigenous president and has faced strong opposition in relatively wealthy regions of the country, including Santa Cruz.

The governor of Santa Cruz, a prominent critic of Mr Morales, voiced scepticism about the government's account.

Mr Morales said 'They are foreign mercenaries - they are Irish, Hungarians and of course there are no Bolivians.'

Police in La Paz, however, said some Bolivians were involved, and Vice President Alvaro Garcia said at a news conference that the foreigners involved were Croats and Irish.

Gen Escobar said two of those killed were from Hungary, but local media organisations reported that they were from Romania and Ireland.

Mr Morales has announced several plots against him in the past but the results of investigations have never been released, causing some Bolivians to doubt their veracity.