A deadly assault on a police station in Nicaragua has been unofficially attributed to cattle rustlers, but with drug traffickers lurking nearby and armed groups causing havoc throughout the country, it remains unclear who was responsible.
At around midnight on August 30, a group of men armed with high caliber rifles and shotguns began firing on a police station in the San Pedro del Norte community in the municipality of Paiwas, located in central Nicaragua's South Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAS), reported Confidencial.
At the time of the attack, several members of the army were also present. In the shootout, which a local resident told Confidencial lasted for about an hour and a half, one soldier was killed, reported La Prensa. In an unofficial account, an unidentified military source told La Prensa that two of the attackers were also thought to have been killed, and another three injured.
The same source said the incident was linked to cattle rustlers who had recently committed a theft nearby. According to La Nueva Radio Ya, soldiers had been dispatched to the area to search for a half dozen cattle thieves, before they were ambushed by the alleged criminals.
Confidencial's source said the alleged criminals belonged to an armed group that had been operating in the area.
InSight Crime Analysis
Near where the incident occurred, Nicaraguan police recently reported the presence of international criminals dedicated to cattle smuggling. Past police statistics have also indicated that Paiwas is one of the places in Nicaragua most affected by cattle rustling, a crime that appears to be growing in various parts of Latin America and can be linked to major criminal groups.
However, the heavy armament of the attackers, ongoing questions surrounding armed groups in Nicaragua, and the location of the attacks raise the possibility that the perpetrators could have had alternative identities or motives.
The RAAS is the Nicaraguan province most heavily affected by the drug trade, with a homicide rate much higher than the national average. Local groups have emerged that profit from harboring and supporting international drug traffickers who makes pit stops along Nicaragua's Caribbean Coast.
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There are also a number of armed groups operating in Nicaragua that identify as "Contras," in reference to the rebels who fought the Sandinista regime in the 1980s. These were initially believed to have been behind recent eye-catching violent attacks. While the Nicaraguan government claims these organizations are made up of common criminals, members of the groups have mysteriously wound up dead or been targeted by elite forces, indicating they represent a more serious concern than the government admits. In Paiwas, former rebels have faced off in the past with other armed groups present in the region.