LIMA – A rear admiral and another military officer were wounded when guerrillas attacked their helicopter in the coca-growing Valley of the Apurimac and Ene rivers, or VRAE, region over the weekend, Peruvian media reported.
Rear Adm. Carlos Tello Aliaga, chief of the VRAE Joint Command, was hit by shrapnel in the abdomen when his helicopter was attacked on Friday.
There has been no official confirmation of the attack.
Air force gunnery officer Juan Perez was also wounded in the attack on the aircraft, which was on a reconnaissance mission.
The helicopter was able to continue flying and made it to Jauja, where the two wounded officers were hospitalized.
The Shining Path guerrilla group’s remnants operate in the VRAE region under Victor Quispe Palomino, alias “Comrade Jose,” and in the Upper Huallaga Valley under the command of Florindo Eleuterio Flores Hala, known as “Comrade Artemio.”
Comrade Artemio called for a truce last year and offered to have a dialogue with the government.
The dialogue offer was rejected by President Alan Garcia’s administration after the United States announced it was offering a $5 million reward for Artemio.
The government has made the elimination of the Shining Path’s remnants a priority.
The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said in June that Peru had surpassed Colombia as the world’s leading source of coca, producing 119,000 metric tons of the leaf in 2009.
The Maoist-inspired Shining Path launched its uprising on May 17, 1980, with an attack on Chuschi, a small town in Ayacucho province.
A truth commission appointed by former President Alejandro Toledo blamed the Shining Path for most of the nearly 70,000 deaths the panel ascribed to politically motivated violence during the two decades following the group’s 1980 uprising.
The guerrilla group, according to commission estimates, also caused an estimated $25 billion in economic losses.
Shining Path founder Abimael Guzman Guzman, known to his fanatic followers as “President Gonzalo,” was captured with his top lieutenants on Sept. 12, 1992, an event that marked the “defeat” of the insurgency.
The guerrilla leader, who was a professor of philosophy at San Cristobal University before initiating his armed struggle in the Andean city of Ayacucho, once predicted that 1 million Peruvians would probably have to die in the ushering-in of the new state envisioned by Shining Path.
The group became notorious for some of its innovations, such as blowing apart with dynamite the bodies of community service workers its members killed, or hanging stray canines from lampposts as warnings to “capitalist dogs.”
The Shining Path’s remnants did not comply with Guzman’s order more than a decade ago to end the armed struggle, and he does not recognize them as members of the group.
The La Republica newspaper reported in May 2009 that Guzman, who is serving a life sentence for terrorism, called the remaining members of the guerrilla group operating in the VRAE region “mercenaries.” EFE