Shining Path Rebels Burn 3 Helicopters In Peru

Peru's Left-wing Shining Path rebels have burned three helicopters owned by an international gas pipeline consortium in an attack on a jungle airstrip in the country's central region of Cusco, media reports citing officials said on Sunday.

The rebel attack targeted a private airfield in Kiteni, located in the jungle region of Cusco, in the early hours of Saturday. Notably, no one was injured or abducted in the rebel attack, motive of which remains unclear.

Peruvian officials suspect that the rebels attacked the airstrip after their attempts to ambush a military patrol failed to materialize. The helicopters destroyed in the attack belonged to an international consortium known as Transportadora de Gas del Peru (TGP), comprising of companies from Argentina, the U.S., Algeria, South Korea, France and Belgium.

Following Saturday's attack, TGP said in a statement that it was suspending all maintenance work in the region, adding: "We trust that the state will provide the resources and take the steps necessary to re-establish security in the area."

The developments come six months after a group of 20 armed Shining Path rebels abducted some 36 gas workers in April in the same jungle region known as VRAE, where the Ene and Apurimac rivers meet. The abducted workers were rescued by security forces in April itself. Officials said then that the government had not paid any ransom for their release or engaged in negotiations with the rebels.

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 deployed large number of troops in the region in August 2008 to tackle the rebel problem. More than 50 soldiers and several rebel fighters have been killed in the region since then.

Nevertheless, the VRAE 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.

The crackdown, which later became famous as Peru's "dirty war," 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.

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