Two members of Chile’s Indigenous Mapuche community have died and three others injured in clashes with security forces, the government said.
The violence broke out in Arauco province in the country’s south on Wednesday. The area that has been under a state of emergency since last month amid escalating tensions as the Mapuche have increasingly demanded the government return their ancestral lands.
The latest bloodshed came a day after President Sebastian Pinera said he had asked Congress to extend the state of emergency and the deployment of military forces in four provinces in the Biobio and La Araucania regions, including Arauco.
“I can confirm two deaths so far and I can confirm three injured who have arrived at different hospitals,” Interior Minister Rodrigo Delgado said in the capital Santiago.
The minister said the deaths occurred during two attacks on roadblocks by hooded men near the town of Canete, 640km (400 miles) south of Santiago.
The deceased, two Mapuche community members aged 23 and 44, died of gunshot wounds, health officials said. The prosecutor’s office reported the arrest of three people.
Pinera initially adopted the state of emergency on October 12, a date riven with controversy as it commemorates the arrival of Spanish colonisers in the Americas.
On Tuesday, the president extended by 15 days the militarisation of the regions.
The Mapuche people – Chile’s largest Indigenous community – have increasingly demanded the state return land that has been handed over to private companies, mainly forestry companies and landowners.
Groups have carried out attacks on trucks and private property over the last decade, as the government has been unable to adequately address the unrest.
One person was killed and 17 injured last month when clashes broke out in Santiago between security forces and protesters marching for Mapuche autonomy.