11 die in shootout with soldiers in Venezuela's southeast
Caracas (AFP) - Eleven people died in an exchange of gunfire with soldiers in Venezuela's southeast, where criminal gangs dispute control of gold mines, the national prosecutor's office said on Monday.
The gunfight occurred on Sunday in the town of Tumeremo when a patrol following up reports of an "armed organization" in the area were "surprised by a group of unidentified individuals," the office said in a statement.
"That caused an exchange of gunfire. As a result of the clash, 11 men died and an army officer was wounded," it said, adding an investigation had been opened into the incident.
The violence followed a similar confrontation on August 14 between a suspected gang and a mixed patrol of soldiers and police, in the nearby town of El Callao. Eight people died in that incident.
The region has a reputation for lawlessness and violence, fuelled by the mining and trading in gold.
Last year in Tumeremo a mass grave was found with the bodies of 17 miners who had been shot in the head and chest.
Months later another massacre, of 11 people, was recorded in the same town.
According to prosecutors, there were 21,752 murders in Venezuela last year. Its homicide rate makes it one of the deadliest countries in the world.