Peru: two police killed evicting squatters from nature reserve

Two police officers were killed and four were seriously injured while evicting hundreds of peasant families from Bosque de Pómac nature preserve in northern Peru’s Lambayeque region Jan. 20. Authorities said the peasants had been illegally occupying the reserve for more than a year, but advocates for the evicted families said many had been fraudulently been sold lands within the reserve and believed that they held legal title.

Apparently, the eviction operation, which was carried out in compliance with a court order, was proceeding in a tense calm when a group of residents in the zone unexpectedly attacked the police with assault rifles, sparking a ten-minute gun battle. Some 1,500 officers took part in the eviction operation, backed up by an armored car.

The following day, Interior Minister Remigio Hernani and Environment Minister Antonio Brack arrived to review the situation at the Bosque de Pómac Historic Sanctuary, which protects archaeological sites as well as a forest zone. Seventeen peasants have been detained in the incident by the Division of Criminal Investigation (Divincri), but survivors of the killed police are demanding further arrests, saying those responsible for the deaths remain at large. (EFE, RPP, Andina, BBC World Service, Jan. 21)

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