Drug traffickers wearing black masks and armed with submachine guns killed four Indian peasants employed in a U.S.-funded project to stamp out the coca leaf crop in the Peruvian jungle, the army said today.
The 40-man raiding party also threw grenades, wounding four workers, in the surprise attack on peasants cutting down and burning coca leaf plants in Huanganapama, 20 miles from this northern Peruvian town, an army spokesman said.
The attack Wednesday raised to 23 the number of coca eradication workers killed since November, 1984, by traffickers operating in the Upper Huallaga River Valley, the center of Peru's illicit coca trade.
Washington is funding a $30-million program to stamp out the illicit crop in Peru, the source for nearly half the raw material for the world's cocaine.
Processing labs convert coca leaves into paste before the material is airlifted to neighboring Colombia for refining into cocaine, mainly for illegal export to the United States.
The Reagan Administration this week sent six U.S. Army helicopters and 160 soldiers to back an anti-narcotics drive in neighboring Bolivia.