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Shining Path nearly downs Peruvian chopper

Pilot and another soldier were killed by snipers

Two Peruvian soldiers were killed by Shining Path guerrillas during what was supposed to be a routine patrol in a remote coca-growing region.  The ambush took place Wednesday near the town of San Martin de Pangoa, in the Apurimac and Ene River Valley (VRAE).

One man stepped on a landmine during a counterinsurgency sweep, and a medevac helicopter was called in.  Shining Path snipers opened fire as it took off, killing the pilot and another soldier on board.  The co-pilot successfully took control of the craft, which managed a safe getaway.

Military sources speculated that the guerrillas intended to down the aircraft and kill all onboard.   The Shining Path has achieved that goal twice before, in 1999 and again in 2009.

The attack comes shortly after Peruvian President Ollanta Humala met with his Joint Command of the Armed Forces to re-evaluate military strategy in the region, which is both important to the illicit drug trade and one of the last holdouts of the Shining Path movement.  With few other economic options there, locals cultivate coca and sell it to the guerrillas.  Accordingly, in addition to better intelligence sharing and controls on chemical ingredients, Humala called for economic development in the impoverished region.

“We have to win over the population, have them on our side. Otherwise, we’ll advance little or not at all; victory will be far off. So we agree that this war is not only military but also economic. Social inclusion is fundamental to taking the Apurimac and Ene River Valley VRAE ” the president said.