River pirates assaulted a cruise on the Amazon in Peru, robbing terrified tourists of $20,000 and a range of electronic devices in an incident that highlights the potential dangers associated with adventure tours in insecure countries.
No tourists were harmed in the assault by heavily armed men who stormed the vessel as it moved down the Amazon River in the middle of the night on July 14, El Comercio reported. The tour managed by Amazon Cruises was waylaid in Fernando Lores district near the city of Iquitos.
Peru’s ATV reported that eight members of a band called “The River Pirates” (Piratas del Rio) took part in the robbery. El Comercio's report said the assailants wore hoods and fired into the air as they stormed the boat, then proceeding to search its rooms and loot the passengers of their valuables. "They were moments of great anguish for fear of losing our life," a crew member told the newspaper.
The 56 passengers were forced to cut short their 7-day cruise on the "Amazon Discovery" and accept refuge from villagers of a near-by hamlet until police arrived. Most of the tourists were from the United States, although several were from Australia and Canada, according to AFP.
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The last major assault of this kind occurred in October 2014 on the boat Golfinoh as it traveled the same route to Iquitos. A police officer who happened to be on the boat tried to ward off the attack. The officer and one assailant were killed and seven passengers were wounded, La Prensa.Pe reported. Only minor assaults had been reported since then.
Nevertheless, incidents involving river pirates have been reported in other parts of South America. In May 2016, a ferry traveling on the Solimoes River in the State of Amazonas, Brazil, was attacked by three armed men. The assailants used a speed boat to intercept the ferry and stormed the vessel at about midnight. Again, the attackers wore masks and carried assault rifles and pistols. They stole $2,600, several mobile phones and they stripped equipment from a vehicle being transported by the ferry.
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Another incident of river piracy was reported in May 2016 in the city of Barcarena, near Brazil's northern Atlantic coast. Tourists were robbed by 10 heavily armed men who stormed their vessel, but no one was injured or killed.
Although they have all been relatively small-scale events, the assaults highlight insecurity in these remote areas, which are often centers of illegal activity like informal mining and drug trafficking or production. Tourists traveling to many exotic locations in South America should be aware of the potential for getting more adventure than they bargained for.