* Pipeline maintenance activities suspended in hot zone
* Sole pipeline crucial to national energy security
* Shining Path kidnapped natural gas workers in April
LIMA, Oct 6 (Reuters) - Peru’s sole natural gas pipeline was left without maintenance services on Saturday after Shining Path rebels destroyed on the ground three helicopters belonging to the company that runs the pipeline.
The aircraft were used by the company Transportadora de Gas del Peru, or TGP, to dispatch maintenance workers along the pipeline in the country’s southern jungles.
“This most recent incident, on top of causing the total suspension of maintenance activities in the conflict zone, makes it impossible for us to respond to any emergency situation or incident that could affect transport,” TGP said in a statement.
“We trust that the state will provide the resources and take the steps necessary to reestablish security in the area,” it said.
The Shining Path, or Sendero Luminoso in Spanish, started a war to overthrow the state in 1980, and some 70,000 people were killed in the conflict.
The rebels, now too weak to pose a strategic threat to the government, went into the cocaine-trafficking business after the founders of the group were arrested in the early 1990s. The southeastern valleys where they operate contain natural gas reserves and pipelines central to the country’s energy security.
The guerrilla group captured 36 natural gas workers in April, later saying they had taken and released the hostages.
Owners of the pipeline company TGP, which carries gas from Peru’s Camisea gas fields, include Argentina’s Pluspetrol, U.S.-based Hunt Oil, South Korea’s SK Energy and Suez-Tractebel, among others. (Reporting By Omar Mariluz; Writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Eric Walsh)