Wed, Jan 05, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Peru paramilitary officer surrenders


The leader of a paramilitary indigenous group that seized a police station, took 10 officers hostage and allegedly killed four more surrendered on Monday night as security forces besieged his followers still barricaded in the building, officials said.

"Also detained with Antauro Humala was one of his followers," Peruvian Prime Minister Carlos Ferrero told reporters at the government palace early yesterday.

Ferrero issued a demand to the rebels remaining in the police post to lay down their arms and release the hostages.

"If this does not happen, it is the obligation of the government to re-establish order and it will with the combined force of the police and armed forces," he said.

Humala, a former army major, was in police custody after turning himself in, said a spokeswoman for Interior Minister Javier Reategui. She said about 90 of his followers had also surrendered.

"He came with the idea of surrendering himself but a group of his followers weren't in agreement," the spokeswoman said. "There are 30 or 35 who are still in the police station. It appears they are angry and some of them have been drinking liquor."

She said security forces had launched an operation to recapture the police post at around 10pm. She said troops did not storm the building out of concern that the rebels would harm the hostages -- 10 policemen held since Saturday and five government soldiers who were captured on Monday after a gun battle that killed one of Humala's rebels.

A reporter who had seen Humala enter the municipal building about four hours earlier was ordered by police to go into a nearby hotel with other journalists minutes before the operation began. The crackle of automatic gun fire could be heard outside.

The three-day standoff began on Saturday when Humala and a group of about 125 loyal gunmen seized the police station in the remote Andean town, about 443km southeast of the capital, Lima. Five police officers were wounded and 10 more were taken hostage.

The group wants to establish a nationalist indigenous movement modeled on the ancient Incan Empire.

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