LIMA – Five security forces members were wounded and an undetermined number of Shining Path guerrillas may have been killed in a firefight in the jungles of the mountains of southern Peru, the Armed Forces Joint Command said.
The firefight may have resulted in “possible losses on the side of the criminal terrorists, with the number yet to be determined,” the command said.
The incident occurred on Wednesday when armed forces and National Police patrols were conducting operations in Huanta, a province in Ayacucho, within the Valley of the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro Rivers, or VRAEM, region in southern Peru.
The wounded security forces members were treated at clinics near the scene of the engagement and are to be airlifted to hospitals outside the region.
Air patrols were ordered to determine whether more rebels were in the area.
The Shining Path’s remnants operate in the rough terrain of the VRAEM, an area that has been under a continuous state of emergency due to its status as one of Peru’s largest illegal coca-growing regions.
An estimated 18,845 hectares (46,530 acres) were planted with coca, the raw material for cocaine, in the region at the end of 2014, the United Nations said in a report.
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, 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.”