Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo replaced his interior minister after at least six police and nine squatters were killed during an attempt by security forces to evict landless peasants from a rural estate.

Ruben Candia Amarilla, a former attorney general, was sworn in Saturday after Lugo accepted Carlos Filizzola's resignation in the wake of the violence in the northeastern province of Canindeyu, which borders Brazil.

The leftist president also accepted the resignation of National Police chief Gen. Paulino Rojas, who has been replaced on an interim basis by Arnaldo Sanabria Moran, the president's office said.

Friday's gun battle, in which dozens more were wounded, took place on the Morumbi property, a spread of 2,000 hectares (4,938 acres) located some 380 kilometers (236 miles) northeast of Asuncion.

Authorities had sent more than 300 police officers backed by helicopters to clear the peasants off the estate, pursuant to a court order obtained by Morumbi's owner, prominent politician and businessman Blas N. Riquelme.

Some of the armed peasants subsequently withdrew into a wooded area, where they were surrounded by police.

On Friday, Filizzola, who had initially said seven police were killed, attributed the violence to "peasants of various origins ... who have acted in previous occupations of the Morumbi estate and in the assault on the prosecutor's office in Curuguaty."

He said the government had seen no indication that the shadowy EPP rebel group, which operates in the northeastern part of the country, had any part in Friday's incident.

Lugo said in an address to the nation Friday evening that he had deployed the army to support the police in the operation at the rural estate and help restore order.

Land occupations are common in central and northeastern Paraguay. The peasants usually target massive soy plantations owned by businessmen from neighboring Brazil.

Paraguay's Truth and Justice Commission said in a 2008 report that the 1954-1989 regime of dictator Alfredo Stroessner illegally awarded titles to nearly 6.75 million hectares (16.66 million acres) of land.

Those "ill-gotten" properties represent almost a third of the country's arable land, according to the commission. EFE