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Last Updated: Monday, 18 December 2006, 04:41 GMT
Seven die in coca ambush in Peru
By Dan Collyns
BBC News, Lima

Coca grower, Peru
Peru permits a certain amount of coca to be grown for traditional uses
Suspected rebels in Peru have killed seven men, including five policemen, in an ambush in the country's coca-growing interior.

The police convoy was attacked during a crackdown on illegal coca-growing in the second major ambush in a year.

The interior ministry has not blamed any group for the attack but remnants of the Shining Path guerrilla movement are known to operate in the region.

More than 20 police have been killed in ambushes in the last year.

The rebel group, which led one of Latin America's bloodiest insurgencies in the 1980s and 1990s, has claimed responsibility for similar attacks.

The government says it will prolong a state of emergency in various coca growing regions of Peru, for a further two months.

Raw materials

It was a carefully planned ambush. The attackers laid in wait for the police convoy before firing on their vehicle with grenades and high-powered automatic rifles.

They took weapons from the dead policemen before disappearing back into the mountainous jungle of Ayacucho region.

The convoy, which included five policemen and two workers from the state-run coca company, Enaco, had been on their way to eradicate and replace illegal coca leaf crops - the raw material to make cocaine.

Peru permits a certain amount of coca to be cultivated and sold to its state company, Enaco, for traditional use but at least 80% of what is grown in the country is unaccounted for.

Colombian and Mexican drug cartels are known to be operating in the coca-growing areas and cocaine production is increasing as the authorities struggle to impose control.

This latest attack came as the government announced a plan to combat the remaining Shining Path guerrillas. Some analysts say this pushed the rebels to go on the offensive.

Peru vows to smash 'drug rebels'
22 Dec 05 |  Americas
Peru to tolerate coca cultivation
22 Jun 05 |  Americas
Andes record fall in coca crop
18 Jun 04 |  Americas
Peru's coca growers demand help
19 Feb 04 |  Americas
Peru's coca struggle
29 Oct 03 |  Crossing Continents
Profile: Peru's Shining Path
05 Nov 04 |  Americas
Country profile: Peru
28 Apr 05 |  Country profiles

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