BAGUA, Peru (AFP) — At least 31 people have been killed in a 24-hour orgy of violence in northern Peru where police clashed with Amazon Indians over land rights in the rainforest, government officials said.
According to Prime Minister Yehude Simon, 22 police officers and nine civilians were killed Friday and Saturday after police forcibly re-opened a regional highway that thousands of Amazon Indian protesters had been blocking for days.
The clashes mark the bloodiest unrest in Peru since the Shining Path, a violent Maoist rebel group, terrorized the country in the 1980s and 1990s in its battle against the government.
Simon warned that the civilian death toll was likely to rise, and local press reports said that there could be up to 25 civilians dead. By late Friday he said there were already 108 civilians wounded.
The protesters want to overturn decrees signed by President Alan Garcia easing restrictions on mining, oil drilling, wood harvesting and farming in the Amazon rainforest.