By Mariel Cristaldo
ASUNCION (Reuters) – An ambush in the north of Paraguay killed eight soldiers, authorities said on Saturday, adding that the attack bore the hallmarks of the guerrilla group known as the Paraguayan People’s Army.
The Paraguayan People’s Army, known locally by its Spanish initials EPP, is a small leftist group formed just over a decade ago.
It is loosely modeled on the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which has said in recent days that it will lay down its arms after half a century of war.
The security forces who officials said were attacked on Saturday belong to a unit created by the government in 2013 to combat the EPP.
“At about 9am this morning a routine patrol was the object of an attack on a country road in the Arroyito district … the attackers detonated explosives as the truck passed and then carried out a cowardly armed attack on the wounded soldiers,” said the Interior Ministry in a statement.
The government said it is investigating the attack, which took place in a rural part of Concepcion, about 450 kilometers (280 miles) north of capital Asuncion, in an area where the EPP is known to operate.
The shadowy EPP sometimes leave pamphlets at the site of attacks. Authorities have not said if anything like that has been found.
Interior Minister Francisco de Vargas told a local radio station that the manner of the attack – explosive artifacts by a road – was typical of the EPP. “It is very probable that that is what happened,” he said.
The EPP has been blamed by authorities for a string of kidnappings, murders and attacks in the remote north of Paraguay, an area of cattle ranches, poor rural laborers, and illegal marijuana plantations.
In 2013 it carried out an attack in which five people died, its bloodiest to date.
The group is believed to hold three people captive at present: a police agent who has been held for over two years, and two Mennonites, members of a religious sect of European background who have significant dairy farming communities in Paraguay.
(Reporting by Mariel Cristaldo; Writing by Rosalba O’Brien; Editing by Matthew Lewis)