Two Peruvian helicopters reportedly were shot down Sunday, killing seven Peruvians, as Ecuadorean officials accused Peru of mounting a “massive offensive” along a disputed border.
An Ecuadorean Joint Chiefs of Staff communique reporting the first helicopter downing said one Ecuadorean had been been killed and another wounded Sunday in the fourth day of border clashes.
Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Alberto Molina said two Peruvians were captured when the second helicopter was downed.
There were conflicting reports of casualties. Ecuadorean field commanders said 20 Peruvian and three Ecuadorean soldiers were killed Saturday.
Peruvian officials did not comment on the fighting Sunday, nor have they given any casualty figures. But Lima’s Channel 4 television reported Sunday evening that 30 Ecuadorean and six Peruvian soldiers have been killed and that six Peruvians have been wounded and three are missing.
The fighting centers on a disputed 50-mile unmarked stretch of the two countries’ 1,000-mile border, the Cordillera del Condor - a dense jungle region with gold, uranium and possibly oil reserves as well as a river that could provide Ecuador’s sole navigable access to the Amazon River. The area was the site of bloody clashes in 1981.
Sunday was the 53rd anniversary of the signing of the Rio Protocol that ended a 1941 war between Ecuador and Peru over the entire border. Ecuador contends it lost almost half its territory with the signing of the protocol, and it later declared the territorial limits set by the agreement to be void.
Peru and Ecuador each contend that the current skirmishes are taking place on its own territory and therefore in defense of its own sovereignty.
The Ecuadorean military command in Quito said Peruvian forces attacked bases at Soldado Monge, Teniente Hugo Ortiz, Coangos and Cueva de los Tayos with planes, helicopters and mortars Sunday morning.
The Ecuadorean army and air force were “fighting to repel the attack,” the communique said. Molina said Sunday evening that Ecuadorean army fliers had bombed a base at Pachacutec, “which is in our territory.