January 19, 2001

Army kills drug traffickers in Amazon, Ecuador military says

                  QUITO, Ecuador (Reuters) -- Military troops and drug traffickers engaged in a
                  shootout that left several traffickers dead after troops discovered a cocaine lab in
                  Ecuador's Amazon jungle on the border with Colombia, Ecuador's high military
                  said Friday.

                  In a two-paragraph statement, the high military command said that at noon local
                  time Thursday troops found a cocaine refinery and then a similar "installation"
                  nearby that had chemicals, microwaves and electric generators, between the
                  Bermeja and San Miguel rivers across the border from Colombia.

                  Several drug traffickers were killed in the confrontation with the military, and several others
                  were captured. No one from the high military command or defense ministry was available to
                  expand on the information.

                  The outbreak occurred just 10 days after Ecuadorian troops found a factory about five
                  miles into Ecuadorian territory where uniforms were being made for Colombia's biggest guerrilla
                  group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

                  The incidents have Ecuadorian citizens worried that the 40-year armed conflict involving leftist
                  guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries and the armed forces in Colombia could permeate the 370 mile
                  border that divides the two nations.

                  All of Colombia's neighbors -- Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama, Peru and Brazil -- have
                  expressed concern that a $7.5 billion U.S.-backed plan to eradicate drug trafficking and those who
                  profit from it, known as "Plan Colombia," could expand the conflict.

                  Ecuador is especially worried as Colombia's coca-growing Putumayo region is directly across
                  its border, and the U.S. Air Force is conducting anti-narcotics surveillance from a base on the
                  Ecuadorian coast.

                     Copyright 2001 Reuters.