HOSTILITIES are mounting between Peru and Ecuador following the escalation of a long-running border dispute on January 26. Though mainly thick jungle, the disputed 48 mile (76km) stretch of the unmarked border is also rich in mineral deposits.
Aircraft from both sides have been active since the heaviest fighting occurred on February 9, when 16 Fuerza Aerea del Peru (FAP) fighter aircraft undertook continuous air strikes on Ecuadorian positions at Coangos and Base Sur in the Condor mountain range. The next day saw FAP aircraft bomb Cueva de los Tayos and Tihuinza, while Fuerza Aerea Ecuatoriana (FAE) aircraft responded by attacking Peruvian patrols. During these raids two FAP Su-22 Fitters were shot down by Mirage FUAs and a Cessna A-37 was lost to a Kfir C.2. Suggestions that a FAP Canberra was lost are unfounded. FAE shoot-downs have not been confirmed.
According to local reports, ‘Mil gunship helicopters’ bought by Peru have been ‘a complete failure’ in the Condor mountains. Not too surprising, given that these were probably purchased for use in the rugged Atacoma Desert, which stretches along the border of Peru and Chile.
A peace treaty was signed between the two countries on February 17 but was violated by both sides — fighting flared up again particularly in the Tihuinza area which Peru claimed was the last Ecuadorian outpost.
On February 21, in an effort to clear the way for troops, FAP military helicopters discharged firepower on minefields at Tihuinza and Ampama to help deactivate plastic mines planted by Ecuadorian troops.