LA PAZ, Bolivia -- LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — A police officer on Sunday became the second member of a government eradication squad to die of gunshot wounds from an ambush by coca growers, who authorities said held eight team members hostage.

Ten more members of the joint military-police team suffered gunshot wounds and 10 were injured by blows in Saturday's attack in a rural area of the remote municipality of Apolo, about 90 miles north of La Paz, Interior Minister Carlos Romero said.

It was the first fatal attack on an eradication team since Evo Morales, a coca growers union leader, was first elected president nearly eight years ago.

A bullet perforated the stomach and pancreas of the police officer who died Sunday, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. It said the army lieutenant who died Saturday suffered a gunshot wound that pierced a lung.

A local coca grower leader, Gregario Cari, told The Associated Press by phone that security forces had attacked with tear gas and gunshots. Cari said the growers were only trying to protect their crops.

"I have information that the comrades were provoked," Cari said. He said the growers took the hostages for their own security and were seeking dialogue to prevent "confrontation."

The government considers two-thirds of Bolivia's coca crop to be legal and dedicated to traditional uses such as alleviating altitude sickness and fatigue. But joint military-police teams eradicate unapproved coca fields, and the official in charge of the effort, Felipe Caceres, said more than 35 square miles had been destroyed this year.

U.S. officials say most of Bolivia's coca leaves are being processed into cocaine, whose main destination is Brazil, Argentina and Europe.

Morales rose to prominence as a leader of the six coca-growing federations of the Chapare region of central Bolivia.

Critics, including Cari, say the president favors his Chapare supporters over growers in other regions. However, two-thirds of coca cultivation destroyed this year was in Chapare, compared to one-third in Apolo and the Yungas region near La Paz.

Morales expelled the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in 2008, accusing it of inciting political opposition.

The U.S. government says the result has been a rise in cocaine trafficking and related violence in Bolivia that is fueled by official corruption. Effective this month, the U.S. halted all counter-narcotics aid to Morales' government.

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Associated Press writer Frank Bajak in Caracas, Venezuela, contributed to this report.

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  • A man carries a human skull during the Natitas Festival at a cemetery in La Paz, Bolivia, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012. "Natitas," are human skulls from unnamed, abandoned graves that are cared for and decorated by faithful who use them as amulets believing they serve as protection from thieves. The festival is a mixture of Andean ancestral worship rites and Catholic beliefs. According to experts, it was common practice in the pre-Hispanic era to keep skulls as trophies and display them during the rituals to symbolize death and rebirth. The festival marks the end of the All Saints’ holiday, but is not recognized by the Catholic church. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

  • Candles burn before a row of decorated human skulls or “Natitas,” during the Natitas Festival at the Cementerio General, in La Paz, Bolivia, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012. "Natitas," are human skulls from unnamed, abandoned graves that are cared for and decorated by faithful who use them as amulets believing they serve as protection from thieves. The festival is a mixture of Andean ancestral worship rites and Catholic beliefs. According to experts, it was common practice in the pre-Hispanic era to keep skulls as trophies and display them during the rituals to symbolize death and rebirth. The festival marks the end of the All Saints’ holiday, but is not recognized by the Catholic church. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

  • People arrive in the chapel of the Cementerio General with decorated human skulls on metal platters, to offer a prayer before attending the Natitas Festival at the largest cemetery in La Paz, Bolivia, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

  • A decorated human skull or Natita is carried out of the Cementerio General’s chapel and to the Natitas Festival at the largest cemetery in La Paz, Bolivia, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

  • A woman offers a prayer for her human skull or “Natita,” encased in a cardboard box wrapped in a white cloth, at the Cementerio General’s chapel, before attending the Natitas Festival at the largest cemetery in La Paz, Bolivia, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

  • Hundreds gather at the Cementerio General’s chapel, to offer prayers for their “Natitas,” or decorated human skulls before attending the Natitas Festival at the largest cemetery in La Paz, Bolivia, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

  • A trio of women decorate two human skulls in preparation for the Natitas Festival inside the chapel of the largest cemetery in La Paz, Bolivia, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)