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Armed bandits raid Amazon cruise ship again

Aug 06, 2009

Nine armed bandits bound the hands and feet of the 20 holidaymakers, including Britons, Americans, Australians and Spaniards, on a small cruiser heading up the Ucayali River in the Peruvian Amazon to the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve.

The men boarded the vessel from a small speedboat at around 7am on Tuesday near a hamlet called Yucuruchi, close to the confluence of the Marañón, Ucayali and Amazon rivers.

They took advantage of heavy rain and poor visibility to stage their raid.

They are reported to have overcome two police officers guarding the ship after a similar attack nine days earlier before getting the holidaymakers out of their beds and forcing them to hand over their valuables at gunpoint.

One of the officers received first aid for head injuries but the tourists were unharmed.

Police reinforcements arrived after crew radioed for help.

The robbers fled with cameras, cash, jewellery and designer clothes amid a shoot-out with police.

Officers later recovered some of the holidaymakers' belongings after discovering them in the gang's jungle base camp, where they also confiscated guns and walkie-talkies the armed gang are believed to have used to coordinate their well-planned attack.

Security in the area was stepped up in the aftermath of the raid, the second of its kind in the last fortnight.

The reserve is considered the jewel of Peru's northern Amazon jungle and is home to more than 80 lakes as well as spectacular wildlife including huge river turtles, the giant river otter, the black caiman and the paiche - the world's largest freshwater fish species.

General Miguel Hidalgo, head of Peru's national police, said: "National Police operations are continuing in the area with reinforcements from anti-drugs officers.

"We are confident we can capture these criminals in the next few hours."

The vessel targeted by the raiders belongs to a company called Aqua Expeditions and is thought to be called the M/V Aqua.

The facilities on the ship, according to the company's website, include suites with air-conditioning and private baths with luxury toiletries, are comparable to those of a five-star hotel.

Seven-night Amazon cruises start at £2,880.

Cruises start in the Peruvian city of Iquitos, a one-and-a-half hour flight from the capital Lima.

Aqua Expeditions has a section on safety on its website which says: "A crew member is assigned on our navigation deck to keep watch around the clock, 24/7, whether the vessel is sailing or docked."

Armed bandits raid Amazon cruise ship again
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