The defense ministry said the soldiers were attacked by people armed with slingshots and sticks during an anti-government demonstration in Ilave.
Six Peruvian soldiers have drowned after jumping into an icy river while fleeing anti-government protesters in the south of the country.
The defense ministry said soldiers were attacked on Sunday by people armed with slingshots and sticks during a demonstration against President Dina Boluarte’s government in the Puno region’s Ilave city.
“With the location of the remains… the search and rescue efforts have ended,” the ministry said on social media.
The bodies of the soldiers were retrieved from the Ilave River, a tributary of Lake Titicaca on the border between Peru and Bolivia.
Five other soldiers also suffered hypothermia after trying to cross the river, the ministry added.
Puno was the epicenter of protests that erupted in December when then-President Pedro Castillo was ousted and arrested after attempting to dissolve parliament and rule by decree.
More than 50 people have been killed and about 1,300 injured – nearly half of them members of the security forces – in clashes since then, according to the country’s ombudsman.
Castillo’s supporters demand Boluarte’s resignation, dissolution of parliament, immediate elections and a new constitution.
‘No way out’
In a video shared by the ministry, a soldier who managed to escape said he and his colleagues “crossed the river…because we had no other way out”.
“Between 800 and 900 people surrounded us and started throwing stones at us,” he said, sitting among a dozen other soldiers, all wrapped in blankets. “People called us corrupt and murderers.”
The soldier said the men had tried to form a human chain, but “the current took us and…some of the troops began to drown.”
A health group in Puno said it treated five soldiers for hypothermia after local residents rescued them from the river.
On Saturday, 16 people – civilians and soldiers – were injured in clashes elsewhere in Puno that also saw a police station set on fire.
The demonstrations are led by poor indigenous Peruvians from the south who see Castillo, who is also of humble origins and has indigenous roots, as an ally in their fight against poverty, racism and inequality.
Castillo was elected to a five-year term and had only been in office for 17 months when he was fired.
He was the fifth Peruvian president since 2018 to be successfully impeached before the end of his term.