AYACUCHO, Peru — The Ayacucho Provincial Council accused soldiers Wednesday of killing at least 80 peasants in a village during the Pope's visit to Peru. The military denied the charge.
A statement from the council, the region's top elective body, said that troops killed peasants during corn harvesting in Cayara, 50 miles south of Ayacucho, in retaliation for a leftist guerrilla attack against an army convoy hours earlier.
A military communique said the charges were unfounded and were aimed at blocking efforts to capture the rebels.
The killings reportedly occurred during the visit of Pope John Paul II to Peru on May 14-16. The Pope did not travel to Ayacucho, 230 miles southeast of Lima.
Cayara residents told the council that soldiers "indiscriminately" killed 30 to 50 young men Saturday as they harvested corn. Then, they said, troops herded up to 50 more peasants into a town chapel and slew them with bayonets.
The military said the town was empty when troops arrived Saturday after Maoist Shining Path guerrillas ambushed two army trucks at midnight Friday near Cayara. It said four soldiers and six guerrillas were killed in the attack.
In Lima, the Senate president said the government would investigate and the Chamber of Deputies asked the Defense Ministry to begin a probe.