LIMA, April 18 Peru's first major hostage-taking
in a decade was a ruse to lure soldiers into a remote jungle
valley and kill them in ambushes, said the Shining Path rebel
who led the kidnappings of 36 gas workers.
Martin Quispe Palomino said in television footage broadcast
Wednesday the rebels suffered no casualties but killed six
soldiers and police over the weekend. The rebels released the
workers on Saturday, six days after they were taken hostage near
a natural gas field.
The rebels also shot down a helicopter that was flown by
local police and owned by the United States, which funds
anti-drug work in Peru, the world's top cocaine exporter.
Quispe Palomino, who is known as Comrade Gabriel and had
never before shown his face to the media, scoffed at promises by
President Ollanta Humala to eliminate the remnant band of Maoist
"We asked for a ransom but we knew they (the government)
wouldn't pay. We did it so that these hopeless reactionaries
would send in the armed forces and we could annihilate them.
This was our objective," he said with a smile.
He said it will become easier to ambush soldiers if the
government tries to reinforce security along Peru's main natural
gas pipeline, which carries fuel from the Camisea fields in the
jungle to Pacific coast.
"Let them militarize the pipeline," he said. "We'd have the
upper hand and would annihilate the armed forces, right?"
Prime Minister Oscar Valdes, who like Humala is a former
military officer, said the army's deployment of 1,500 security
agents to pressure the rebels to free the hostages was
"impeccable" despite the casualties.
He said the government refused to pay the rebels' ransom
demands, which included $10 million and bundles of dynamite.
"We won't permit any piece of our territory to be a no man's
land where the terrorists do what they please. The government's
position is very clear and President Humala is after the
rebels," he said.
Humala, who has spent much of his time trying to calm
debilitating protests against mining and petroleum projects
since taking office in July, donned camouflage fatigues twice in
recent days to show his commitment to quashing the rebels.
In February, police caught Shining Path leader Florindo
Eleuterio Flores, the last high-ranking figure from the Shining
Path's historic core, who went by the nom de guerre Artemio.
Artemio ran a band of rebels in the Huallaga Valley, one of
the country's main coca-growing regions. The Quispe Palomino
band operates farther south in a treacherous bundle of jungle
valleys known as the VRAE, also heavily planted with coca.
Holdout bands of rebels, who are now too weak to threaten
the government, went into the cocaine-trafficking business after
the founders of the group were captured in the early 1990s.
The Shining Path launched a war to overthrow the state in
1980, and some 70,000 people were killed in the conflict. In
2003, the group captured 70 workers employed by Argentine
company Techint who were building the Camisea gas pipeline.
(Reporting by Terry Wade and Teresa Cespedes)