Villagers who reported being attacked by 7ft flying aliens were really victims of illegal gold miners who donned jetpacks to scare them away from their gleaming booty, investigators have announced.
Members of the Ikitu population sparked a global frenzy when they said they were under siege from hooded ETs who swooped down on them from the skies above their jungle home in Peru.
One tried to snatch a 15-year-old girl who suffered cuts to her neck escaping their clutches.
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Other witnesses said the 'floating' creatures seemed 'armoured' and impervious to bullets.
A series of reported sightings in remote Alto Nanay left locals scared to leave their homes for fear of encountering 'los Pelacaras' – aka 'the Face Peelers' .
But prosecutors said the culprits were not extraterrestrials – and extremely worldly-wise.
They were members of illegal gold-mining syndicates scouring the jungle for valuable minerals.
Peru's National Prosecutor's Office, which is now probing the 'alien attacks', has pointed the finger at gold 'mafias' who have moved into the country after being ejected from Brazil and Colombia following military operations.
The gangsters wear jetpacks to fly into remote parts of the jungle to hunt for treasure.
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They realised their sinister appearance would terrify locals and keep them away from pits of gold they had discovered in the undergrowth.
Vast quantities of the precious mineral has deposited itself like silt into the riverbeds along Nanay river tributaries that flow into the Amazon.
Villagers said the alien siege began on July 11 when they were first confronted by flying 7ft tall beings in dark-coloured hoods.
Ikitu leader Jairo Reátegui Ávila said: "These gentlemen are aliens. I have shot him twice and he does not fall but rises and disappears.
"They seem armoured like the green goblin from Spider-Man. With that they rise up. They float one metre high and have a red light on the heel.
"His head is long, his mask is long, and his eyes are half yellowish. With that they see you well and they leave.
"They are experts at escaping. We are frightened by what is happening in the community.''
But a local school teacher – a key witness for prosecutors – spotted the invader were wearing jetpacks.
Carlos Castro Quintanilla, a Peruvian government prosecutor investigating the case, said: "They would be using state-of-the-art technology, such as thrusters that allow people to fly."
He said foreign mafias were operating a gold extraction enterprise in the area.
Quintanilla said he suspected the illegal miners first used jetpacks to explore deeper into the dense jungle for gold.
"We have investigated that these gentlemen would be using this suit to reach those places,'' he said.
But they soon realised if they used the garb to carry out attacks they would prevent locals from interfering in their operation.
The Ikitu are now conducting nightly patrols to keep the miners away while 1,500 police and soldiers have been drafted in to clampdown on the gangs.
Gold-mining has been part of Peru's economy for centuries.
A 2016 Interpol assessment said it was 'more profitable than drug trafficking and seen as low risk by criminals' as police operations were focused on combating cocaine production.
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Illicit mining in the region yields one fifth of total gold production worldwide and is worth £32billion, according to experts.
On Christmas Eve 2020 an astronaut was able to photograph eastern Peru's glittering gold prospecting pits while orbiting with the International Space Station.
The pits are comprised of hundreds of tightly-packed water-filled basins carved out of deforested and de-vegetated mudflats.
Environmental regulators said illegal gold miners use toxic mercury to separate gold ore from the surrounding soil, ravaging wild and plant life and poisoning locals as it seeps into ponds, waterways and underground aquifers.
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