Seven police officers were killed after being ambushed in an area of central Peru known for its cocaine production, the National Police said Saturday. The attack took place in the town of Natividad, in the remote Andean and jungle region known as the VRAEM, or Valle de los Rios Apurimac, Ene y Mantaro, which produces 75% of the South American nation’s cocaine.
“We mourn the loss of our police brothers who were ambushed when they were traveling in a police vehicle in the town of Natividad in the Vraem,” the National Police of Peru said on its Twitter account. It added that an additional police officer was involved in the attack but survived.
Authorities did not blame any organization for the attack, but the area has a strong presence of drug trafficking groups allied with remnants of the Maoist rebel group Shining Path. The VRAEM, a mountainous region the size of Puerto Rico, is the center of constant operations by the security forces against remnants of the Shining Path, which police say acts as “bodyguards” for drug traffickers.
The Shining Path began to fade in the early 1990s after the jailing of founder Abimael Guzman and has since developed ties with drug traffickers. Local news reports said the members of the police patrol were attacked with bursts of long-range firearms.