Rights group: Indians attacked by gunmen in Ecuador’s Amazon

Quito, Ecuador (AP) 2-08

Ecuadoran Indian leaders are investigating a report that a group of tribesmen living in an Amazon nature reserve were attacked by gunmen, leaving several casualties, an indigenous rights group said in mid Febuary.

A member of the Huaorani tribe told the Huaorani Nationality Organization of Ecuador that as many as 15 Huaoranis were killed mid Febuary in Yasuni National Park, according to the group’s health director, Saul Quimutari.

Ecuadorean National Police spokesman Patricio Quimzo said officials had no information about the incident. Quimutari told The Associated Press by telephone that the attackers were reportedly illegal loggers.

Two Huaorani leaders were traveling to the area to investigate, he said.

Several indigenous groups live in Yasuni National Park, Ecuador’s largest park and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve where logging is prohibited. Conflicts with illegal loggers are common there, but arrests are rare due to the tribes’ isolation.

The reported victims belonged to the Tagaeri and Taromenane tribes, both part of the Huaorani nation.

Yasuni, like much of the Amazon basin, has large quantities of mahogany and other trees that yield valuable lumber. The jungle area also holds an estimated 1 billion barrels of crude oil.

President Rafael Correa has asked the international community
for at least $350 million a year for 10 years to compensate Ecuador
for income lost by not drilling in the park’s
Ishpingo-Tiputini-Tambococha oil fields.