Mon, Jan 03, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Peru president declares emergency amid siege

AFP , LIMA

At least four policemen died after shots rang out at dawn yesterday in Andahuaylas in southeastern Peru, where a group of renegade soldiers demanding President Alejandro Toledo's resignation took a police station and 10 officers hostage the day before, witnesses and hospital sources said.

The uprising, which began in southeastern Peru early Saturday, was backed by a retired Peruvian army commander currently in South Korea, who sent a message urging the Peruvian people to rise up against Toledo's government.

Toledo declared a regional state of emergency, allowing him to use soldiers as well as police against the hostage-takers, and dispatched additional security forces to the area of Andahuaylas, an agricultural area 400km southeast of Lima.

Police said seven people were wounded in the hostage-taking -- five officers and two presumed members of the ultranationalist rebel group, identified as the Etnocaceristas.

The leader of the uprising, retired army major Antauro Humala, said the group believes Toledo is a corrupt sellout to foreign investors, and demanded an end to inflows of capital from neighboring Chile, a traditional rival.

Humala is the brother of Ollanta Humala, an army commander the government retired three days ago. Ollanta Humala led an October 2000 military uprising a month before the collapse of ex-president Alberto Fujimori's government amid a corruption scandal.

"We are not going to leave the police station until Toledo steps down, but I also am willing to negotiate," said Antauro Humala. He said his brother was en route to Peru from South Korea to lead the movement.

In Seoul Saturday, Ollanta Humala issued a statement, cited on local radio here, calling on Peruvians to "rise up" against Toledo's government.

Toledo convened an emergency meeting of his State Council late Saturday.

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