Aid worker describes violent Peru clash

June 19, 2009 at 2:25 PM
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BAGUA GRANDE, Peru, June 19 (UPI) -- Belgian aid worker Marijke Deleu alleges she witnessed first-hand armed police abusing and shooting protesters during a recent Peru demonstration.

The Guardian (Britain) said Friday that Deleu took photographs of the June 5 incident near the Peruvian town of Bagua Grande and offered a chilling description of the alleged abuses that took place as police attempted to disperse 2,000 Aguaruna and Wampi Indians.

"At first, we saw police firing guns and tear gas at a mass of protesters," said Deleu, who was at the protest scene with fellow aid worker Thomas Quirynen. "Then we saw them beating and kicking people detained on the ground. Later, they shot people in the back as they started fleeing."

The clash came after the indigenous Indians attempted to protect their ancestral lands from energy and mining groups, which were allowed access to the lands under new laws.

"Several people said they had been shot while they were fast asleep," said Deleu, who will present the photographs to Britain's House of Commons next Monday.

The Guardian said reports of casualties from the incident vary with Peruvian President Alan Garcia citing 32 deaths, mainly police officers, and human rights lawyers suggesting nearly 60 deaths.

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