LIMA – Five soldiers were killed and five others wounded in a firefight with an armed group near the Mazangaro base in the central Peruvian region of Junin, the Armed Forces Joint Command said Thursday.
Patrols from the 2nd Infantry Brigade encountered “terrorist criminals” on Wednesday night in Pangoa, a district in Satipo province, the joint command said in a statement.
Four sergeants and a corporal were killed, while four other sergeants and another non-commissioned officer were wounded.
This is the second attack by guerrillas in less than a week on the Mazangaro base.
Sgt. Tito Ramirez Padilla was killed Sunday during a counterinsurgency operation staged by special forces troops in Mazangaro, a town in Junin.
The fighting continued on Wednesday night, with army MI-17 helicopters firing rockets at insurgent positions in the jungle, the El Comercio and La Republica newspapers reported.
The guerrillas are presumably under the command of Victor Quispe Palomino, one of the Shining Path rebel group’s leaders in the Valley of the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro Rivers, or VRAEM, La Republica said.
The wounded soldiers were given first aid in the field and treated at the mobile medical unit at the Pichari base, the Armed Forces Joint Command said.
The government has had a state of emergency in place in Junin and the neighboring regions of Ayacucho, Apurimac and Cuzco, where drug traffickers and guerrillas operate.
The VRAEM is a remote jungle area that includes Ayacucho, Cuzco, Junin and Huancavelica regions.
The Shining Path guerrilla group’s remnants operate in the region, staging attacks on the security forces.
The rebels have joined forces with drug cartels and producers of illegal coca, the raw material for cocaine, officials say.
The government has made the elimination of the Shining Path’s remnants a priority.
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.
Peru is the world’s second-largest cocaine producer, with potential estimated output of the illegal drug at about 300 metric tons. EFE