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Peru Troops Rescue Abducted Gas Workers

Security forces in Peru have rescued a group of gas workers abducted last week by the Left-wing Shining Path rebels near natural gas fields in the southern region of Cusco, officials said on Sunday.

"As a result of the energetic pressure and the tactical and intelligence operations carried out by the Armed Forces and the National Police, the criminal narco-terrorists were surrounded and forced to flee, freeing their hostages in the process," the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Officials said the government did not engage in negotiations with the rebels for release of the hostages and added that no ransom was paid. All of the 36 abducted workers were safe after being rescued in a military operation.

Peruvian media had reported earlier that the rebels had demanded more than $10 million in ransom as well as explosives and the release of their leader 'Comrade Artemio,' who was captured in February, in exchange for the freedom of the abducted workers.

The workers, employed by a company that provides service to the Camisea natural gas development project in southern Cusco, were reportedly abducted a group of 20 armed Shining Path rebels last Monday.

They were seized in a jungle region known as VRAE, where the Ene and Apurimac rivers meet. VRAE is said to be the country's main coca leaf producing area as well as a stronghold of the Shining Path and the country's drug gangs.

The Peruvian government had mobilized large number of troops to the coca growing region in the country's Ene and Apurimac River Valleys (VRAE) in August 2008 to tackle the rebel problem. More than 50 soldiers and several rebel fighters have been killed in the region since that time.

The region has witnessed a resurgence of the Shining Path movement in recent years. The movement had been slowly fading out after the capture of its leader, Abimael Guzman, in 1992. The remaining rebels have now joined forces with the drug traffickers in an effort to raise funds for their insurgency.

Some 400 members of the Shining Path are believed to be still active in Peru, the world's second largest producer of coca, the main ingredient in the making of cocaine, after Colombia.

The Maoist-inspired Leftist group was founded in the 1980s with the intention of replacing Peru's "bourgeois democracy" with a Communist government. Although the group was very powerful in the 1980s and the 1990s, its influence waned by 2000 after a fierce crackdown by the then President Alberto Fujimori.

Fujimori was convicted in 2009 for ordering death-squad killings and kidnappings during the crackdown, which later became famous as Peru's "dirty war." The crackdown targeted Shining Path guerrillas and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement. More than 70,000 people are estimated to have died in two decades of conflict in the Andean country.

by RTT Staff Writer

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