7 Jun 2009

Peru army imposes Amazon curfew

8:34 pm on 7 June 2009

Peru's army has set up checkpoints and imposed curfews in the jungle state of Amazonas after clashes between police and indigenous protesters.

At least 22 police and nine protesters have died, officials say. Protesters say 30 indigenous Indians are dead.

The trouble began on Friday near Bagua with protesters angry at plans to drill for oil and gas on ancestral land.

They took 38 police officers hostage - at least nine were killed on Saturday as the army moved in to free them.

The clashes mark the bloodiest unrest in Peru since the Shining Path, a violent Maoist rebel group, terrorised the country in the 1980s and 1990s in its battle against the government.

Army General Raul Silva, authorised by the central government to take full control of the region, urged locals to remain calm and respect the 3pm to dawn curfew in the area's three largest towns.

Authorities announced they had made 72 arrests.

In a statement, President Garcia said Peru was suffering from "an aggression against democracy", and vowed to respond "with composure and firmness".

As the army moved in to secure the area, thousands of Indians with wooden spears said they would keep up blocking roads if government forces did not halt efforts to break up their demonstrations.