A man died in a shootout between vehicle smugglers and soldiers in Potosi, a region on Bolivia's border with Chile, regional police commander Col. Ramiro Cossio said.

The shootout occurred Friday afternoon at the Uyuni salt flats, a 12,000 sq. kilometer (4,600 sq. mile) area in the southwestern Andean province of Potosi said to hold the world's largest lithium reserves, Cossio told the official ABI news agency.

Soldiers on patrol in the salt flats encountered a caravan of about 20 vehicles entering illegally from Chile and attempted to stop them, Cossio said.

The drivers opened fire on the soldiers, the regional police chief said.

"Citizen Victor Ayaviri Velasco, 40, who was from Llica," a town in Potosi, died in the crossfire, Cossio said.

The smugglers fled the scene, abandoning four vehicles, the police commander said.

The soldiers seized the vehicles and took the body to the town of Uyuni. EFE