Five killed in highway bus robbery

Five people are dead and 20 injured after a dozen gunmen robbed two buses before dawn Sunday close to Peru’s southern border with Bolivia. According to local media, passengers on the buses were mainly workers from Peru’s informal mines who were transporting gold and silver from Sina district to the city of Juliaca, in Puno Department.

The first bus was reportedly stopped at about 3 a.m. by the group, which was heavily-armed with AKM assault rifles and shotguns. Minutes later, a second bus traveling on the same route and carrying three off-duty police officers was also intercepted.

A gunfight broke out when the officers tried to stop the holdup, resulting in the deaths of one officer, 42-year-old Mario Gamarra, three civilians, and one of the bandits, Agencia Andina reported.

According to daily La República, the head of the police in Puno’s Azángaro province, Colonel Enrique Gonzales, will lead the search for the assailants with a team of 40 officers. The daily also reported that police have reinforced Peru’s southern border to prevent the group from fleeing to Bolivia.

With 10 days remaining in January, 11 passenger buses have been robbed on Peru’s highways this month. According to the Office for Highway Protection, 13 buses were robbed during January 2007 and 14 buses in January 2006.

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