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Peru indigenous group to release tourists held in oil spill protest

peru oil spill
Men unload gas canisters on the Pastaza River near Block 192, a dormant Amazon oil field with a history of environmental spills [REUTERS]

A Peruvian indigenous group will release an estimated 150 tourists it held for over a day in a protest over alleged government inaction on oil spills in a river, local authorities said Friday.

The indigenous group, from the Urarinas district in Loreto province in Peru’s Amazon, had held the tourists – which included a handful of US and European nationals – to raise awareness about the oil spillage, according to local media.

“After dialogue with the (head) of the Cuninico communities, our request to release people was accepted,” the Peruvian Ombudsman’s office said on Twitter, adding that the release would take place “shortly.”

The chief of the indigenous group, Watson Trujillo, confirmed the agreement to local media group RPP.

“The right and respect for life must prevail. In this light, we are going to provide the recourses so that the people… can move to their destinations. That will be before noon,” Trujillo said.

None of the tourists were physically harmed, according to RPP.

One of the tourists, Angela Ramirez from Peru, told RPP that the group had originally been informed they would be held for six to eight days if there were no resolution, adding that they had been fed several times.

Among those taken while travelling in river boats was a one-month-old child, people with disabilities, and pregnant women, she said.

Media reports cited the number of people being held as ranging from 70 to as many as 300, including between 17 and 23 foreign nationals.

The UK foreign office said in a statement that it was in contact with local authorities regarding a “very small number of British nationals involved in an incident in Peru.”

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