LA PAZ – A young girl died in the crossfire between armed customs agents and smugglers in the southwestern Bolivian region of Oruro, officials said Monday.
The incident occurred on Saturday night near the town of La Huachaca when the agents tried to intercept a caravan of 15 vehicles that entered Bolivia from neighboring Chile, customs service chief Marlene Ardaya told the state-run ABI news agency.
Some residents of the town came to the defense of the smugglers and “removed a shotgun” from a vehicle of the customs police, who fired into the air in an attempt to disperse the mob, she said.
“We have one person dead who is a girl six to seven years old and the wounded person who is the father,” Ardaya said.
In remarks to the daily La Razon, the father of the girl, who asked that his name be kept confidential, said that his daughter died after being hit in the head by three bullets.
“They fired three shots at the head of my little daughter, who was in her mother’s arms. They were from the COA (armed customs unit), I recognized them by their uniform and the harness they use,” said the man.
The girl’s father was hit by a bullet in the leg and is recovering in a hospital in Oruro city.
Ardaya said she regretted what had happened, “even moreso when there are towns that are committed to smuggling,” adding that the Attorney General’s Office is investigating the incident.
Customs agents seized two vehicles in the operation.
In 2012, the Bolivian government raided the Oruro town of Challapata, which was functioning as a base for smugglers.