Indians, Ecuadorean Soldiers Clash

Quito, Ecuador - Indians opposed to price increases for fuel and public transportation battled soldiers Monday in clashes in a jungle province that left at least four civilians dead.

The clashes brought a halt to talks in Quito between the government and representatives of Ecuador's large Indian movement on ending protests against austerity measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund in order for Ecuador to obtain a $2 billion loan.

Red Cross officials confirmed radio and television reports that four civilians, including a 14-year-old boy, were killed in the jungle town of Puerto Napo, 74 miles southeast of the capital, Quito.

Ecuador's military said only one person had been killed and four people were wounded during attempts by soldiers to clear Indians blocking bridges across the Napo and Misahualli rivers.

Indian protesters later tried to take over the airport in the town of Tena, about 3 miles from Puerto Napo, the military said in a statement. Nine soldiers suffered gunshot wounds and 14 protesters were injured, it said. It said the Indians attacked with guns and sticks of dynamite.

The violence came three days after President Gustavo Noboa's government declared a state of emergency in response to protests against austerity measures that went into effect last month. The government doubled the price of home cooking gas, increased gasoline prices by 25 percent and public bus fares by up to 75 percent.

In protest, hundreds of Indians have blockaded highways throughout the central highlands, preventing meat and food from getting into Quito.

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