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Hunt for drug trafficker terrorizes Honduras village

Rodrigo Abd / AP

Clara Wood Rivas, 59, whose son Antonie Brooks Symore, 14, was killed during a drug raid that appears to have mistakenly targeted civilians in a remote jungle area of Honduras, killing four riverboat passengers and injuring four others.

The Associated Press reports — AHUAS, Honduras — A fearsome rattle of gunfire from the sky. The roar of helicopters descending on a tiny, Honduran town. And the sound of commandos speaking in English as they battered down doors and detained locals in the hunt for a drug trafficker.

Rodrigo Abd / AP

An aerial view of the Mosquitia region near the remote community of Ahuas, Honduras, on May 21, 2012.

Villagers say the drug bust that left four passengers of a riverboat dead after helicopters mistakenly fired on civilians continued into the predawn hours when commandos, including Americans, raided their town.

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Heavily armed Honduran police in at least two helicopters landed and took off numerous times while agents searched homes and detained several people in the village on the banks of a river deep in Honduras' Mosquitia region, named for the Miskito Indians. In the end, enraged residents torched the home of the town's suspected drug trafficker in retaliation for the fatalities on the river.

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The May 11 shooting and subsequent raid raises questions about what role, if any, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents who were on the helicopters played in the events described by villagers. The DEA has repeatedly said its agents on the mission, which included two U.S. helicopters, acted only in an advisory role to their Honduran National Police counterparts and did not use their weapons. Read the full story.

Rodrigo Abd / AP

Clara Wood Rivas, right, accompanied by her daughter July, 18, mourns in front of the tomb of her son in Ahuas on May 22, 2012.

Rodrigo Abd / AP

Honduran soldiers patrol in Ahuas on May 22, 2012. Following the raid on May 11 Honduran police narcotics forces and men speaking English spent hours searching the small town for a suspected drug trafficker, according to villagers.

The burnt house of an alleged drug dealer know as 'El Renco', one of four homes burned after the raid. "The family and friends of the victims burned the homes because of the narcos," villager Hilaria Zavala said. "This whole mess was their fault ... because of them, we all had to pay."

Rodrigo Abd / AP

Wilmer Lucas Walter, 14, rests while recovering in a public hospital from the wounds caused during the attack. On May 11, Wilmer and more than a dozen others dove from a riverboat into the water for cover from Honduran police, who say they were hitting drug traffickers who fired first. Four died.

Rodrigo Abd / AP

A dog bites meat drying outside a house in Ahuas on May 22, 2012. Ahuas Mayor Lucio Baquedano, who said all the shooting victims were innocents, said that there is a drug trafficking cell in his town and that the number of clandestine landing strips is not only increasing, but getting closer to populated areas and putting more uninvolved people at risk.