The combat veterans have killed at least four police officers, but have announced they would lay down their arms if government forces refrain from attacking.

The police were killed as 300 heavily-armed officers tried to storm rebel positions in the city yesterday, of which armed members of the renegade group still command some main streets and the road to the airport.

The group’s leader, retired army major Antauro Humala, told reporters he wants government forces to “abstain from attacking us, shooting at us,” saying he wants the lives of his followers to be spared and the government ombudsman or the Catholic Church to act as mediators in the standoff.

The former soldiers are mostly veterans from the 1995 war with Ecuador and the war with the Shining Path Maoist rebels in the 1980s and 1990s.

They are calling for the resignation of President Alejandro Toledo, who they say is a corrupt sellout to foreign investors and who has a nationwide approval rating of around 11 percent.

The renegades’ leader, Antauro Humala, is the brother of Ollanta Humala, an army lieutenant colonel forced into retirement on December 31. Ollanta led a month-long military uprising in October 2000 against the government of Alberto Fujimori, who resigned in November 2000 amid a corruption scandal.

It is reported the brothers seek to establish a nationalist indigenous movement modeled on the ancient Incan Empire.

Antauro Humala told reporters he spoke on the telephone with Ollanta, who urged the rebels to put down their arms and negotiate with the government. But in an earlier interview Antauro said his brother was en route to Peru from South Korea to lead the movement.

Ollanta is in South Korea, where he served as the military attache in Peru’s embassy.

In Seoul on Saturday, Ollanta issued a statement calling on Peruvians to “rise up” against Toledo’s government.

“It’s the moment to rise up and to show the anti-patriot political class that the Peruvian people are capable of taking a virile attitude when wronged by a government that, day after day, loses its legitimacy and puts itself on the margin of legality,” the statement said.

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