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Shining Path holdouts abduct oil workers in Peru

The Americas Post - That Shining Path is looking a lot dimmer for Peruvian rebels these days

Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) rebels on Monday abducted dozens of oil and gas workers in southern Peru but later released most while the Army sought to encircle their leader, sources in that nation’s Armed Forces have revealed.

After several hours in the hands of leftist rebels, a group of workers from the Swedish firm Skanska was released leaving behind eight captives, said a military source.  The number of people freed and details on their condition were not provided.  Earlier, local radio RPP reported that 23 of 30 workers were returned in two company vans.

This is the second major kidnapping in the zone, where remnants of the Shining Path guerrillas have been allied with drug traffickers for almost 10 years.  In 2003 about 70 workers were  detained by rebels but rescued safely.

Skanska provides services to oil and gas companies in the Kepashiato area of the Apurimac and Ene River Valley (VRAE).  The contractor serves Transportadora de Gas del Peru (TGP),  Argentina’s Pluspetrol, U.S. Hunt Oil and South Korea’s SK, among others.

Kepashiato is located in the Cusco region, home to the largest natural gas reserves in the Andean country.

A resident of Kepashiato identified as “Miguel Angel” told local radio RPP that over 100 rebels armed with AKM rifles came to town early Monday to “distribute leaflets and raise public awareness.”

“About 150 armed men came, of whom 80 entered the town center to raise awareness and the others guarded the area,” said the villager.

Peruvian Army forces launched an offensive a few weeks ago in the VRAE in search of the last leaders of the Maoist Shining Path, following the February capture of important rebel leader “Comrade Artemio” in another jungle area of ​​the country.

That was the first major victory of President Ollanta Humala’s administration against the remnants of the rebel movement.  After the capture of Artemio, security forces were redeployed to the VRAE.  There Victor Quispe Palomino, alias “Jose”, leads the last remaining holdouts from the Shining Path, a group that had its heyday in the 1980’s and 1990’s.  In spite of that decline, during the past three years, over 50 soldiers and policemen have died in clashes and rebel attacks.

Neither Skanska nor the government have commented about the latest kidnapping or admitted to any negotiations.