November 27, 2008 / 2:57 AM / 10 years ago

Peruvian jungle ambush leaves four policemen dead

LIMA, Nov 26 (Reuters) - At least four policemen were killed and another five injured when their government convoy was ambushed at dusk on Wednesday in Peru’s northeastern jungle, the defense minister said.

The attack, the latest in a string of police deaths in rural, coca-rich areas, took place on the outskirts of Tingo Maria, a town in the Amazon region of Huanuco.

"I do not know anything except the consequences (of the ambush). I know they are investigating the case," Peru’s Defense Minister Antero Florez said on local RPP radio.

The state news agency cited him as stressing the attack occurred outside the Ene and Apurimac River Valley region, an area in southern Peru well known for growing coca, the raw ingredient in cocaine.

In that region, remnant members of Peru’s Shining Path guerrilla group have killed several dozen police, soldiers and anti-narcotic workers since President Alan Garcia took office in 2006.

Last month, suspected Shining Path members killed at least 12 soldiers and wounded 14, in the deadliest ambush in some two years. Attacks have been on the rise as Garcia has tried to wipe out the last of the group by sending more troops to areas where it is thought to operate.

The Shining Path, which led a deadly insurrection that started in 1980, largely collapsed in the early 1990s after its leadership was captured.

A few hundred holdouts remain active, though the government says they have mostly abandoned their Maoist ideology in favor of running drugs. After Colombia, Peru is the world’s second largest producer of coca. (Reporting by Dana Ford and Teresa Cespedes; editing by Todd Eastham)

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