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Suspected Drug Traffickers Kill Two Peru Policemen in Ambush

FILE - A military helicopter flies over the VRAEM region, in Pichari, Peru, Sept. 19, 2014. The region in the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro river valleys, or VRAEM, is the world's No. 1 coca-growing region.

Two Peruvian policemen were killed in an ambush Wednesday by suspected drug traffickers in a remote Andean coca-growing region, a regional police chief said on local radio.

The deaths came a week after Peru announced security forces would enter criminally controlled coca-growing areas for the first time as part of a plan to eradicate half the country's supply of the leaf used to make cocaine.

The police chief said the deaths occurred in Luricocha district in a region known as the Valle de los Ríos Apurímac, Ene y Mantaro (VRAEM), where traffickers have formed alliances with remnant bands of Shining Path rebels. About 75 percent of Peru's coca is grown there.

"They were returning from a road patrol when they were ambushed by alleged drug traffickers. There were six to eight attackers," Alexis Bahamonde, head of police in the VRAEM, said on RPP radio.

Peru and Andean neighbor Colombia are the world's biggest cocaine producers, according to the United Nations.