MAZAMARI, Peru - Hidden among the dense Peruvian jungle, the Shining Path rebels are still enslaving between 170 and 200 people, of which around 70 to 80 are children, said the Peruvian Defense Vice-Minister Ivan Vega Wednesday.
According to Vega, Shining Path officials force the captives to serve in their 'production camps.' Women are forced to cook and raped to produce children, who could be later trained as child soldiers.
"Children are dedicated to growing and animal breeding and are indoctrinated into the ideology (Maoist) of the Path. When they turn 15, they are incorporated as guerrillas," said Vega on his visit to Mazamari in central Junin.
Vega said the Peruvian police and the armed forces have rescued 144 people, including 59 children, from the territory of the Shining Path since 2011.
The latest operation last week was the most successful with security forces rescuing 54 people, including 34 children, from a camp in Vraem, 280 km (174 miles) east of Lima.
Half of these children are motherless, according to sources at the Prosecutor's office.
Vega led a delegation of senior military and police officials Thursday who visited Mazamari police base, where the last rescued victims - mostly indigenous ethnic Ashaninkas - are sheltered.
Two of them agreed to give an account of their ordeal to the foreign media on condition of anonymity.
A man, around 40 years of age, recounted in Ashaninka, translated by an interpreter that he was held captive by the rebels since the age of 18.
"I wanted to escape, but I was afraid they will kill me. Now we feel free, but we are still scared," added the man, who was rescued together his wife and their minor children.
The couple have two more children, a boy and a girl, in another area of the Peruvian jungle whose whereabouts are unknown.
Another rescued woman said she saw Shining Path rebels hang people to death in front of her: "With the Path I did not have happiness. I was quite afraid they will kill me," she said.
The case of the children is even more dramatic because they have been refused all rights recognized by the Convention of the Rights of the Child, said the Peruvian prosecution's System Coordinator on Terrorism and Human Rights, Luz del Carmen Ibaņez.
They have not received any education and know only to defend the Path, she added.
The Shining path is responsible for more than 69,000 deaths during the internal conflict between the State and the terrorist organization from 1980 to 2000, according to the report of the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The report pointed out Path rebels are guilty of the murder of 6,000 Ashaninkas and maintain in slavery 5,000 members of the ethnic group and of unleashing fierce persecution that led to the forced displacement of 30 to 40 communities.
The most recent hideouts of the rebels include the mountainous jungle region of VRAEM, an area that continues to be under state of emergency.
It is also the largest area in the country where illegal coca crops are grown.