Peru on full alert after guerrilla leader's arrest

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The Independent Online
HUNDREDS of heavily armed police backed by armoured vehicles guarded national police headquarters in central Lima yesterday after the arrest of Abimael Guzman, leader of Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path). President Alberto Fujimori, who was on a provincial tour, was flying back to the capital last night to parade Guzman on national television.

The 12-year 'people's war' by Guzman's Maoist guerrillas has cost the lives of more than 26,000, caused dollars 22bn (pounds 11bn) of damage and brought Peru to the verge of paralysis.

Security forces throughout the country were put on full alert as the authorities prepared for a violent reaction from Guzman's followers, who revere him as the world's greatest revolutionary thinker. He launched his assault on the Peruvian state in 1980 from a stronghold high in the Andes, but since then the guerrilla organisation has spread to virtually every corner of the country. In recent months it has brought terror to the streets of Lima with a devastating campaign of car bombings.

Guzman was captured without a struggle at a house in a middle- class housing development on the outskirts of the capital, which police sources said had been under observation for several months. With the leader were at least seven members of the Central Committee of Shining Path, which its members prefer to call the Communist Party of Peru. Police from the elite anti-terrorist squad, Dincote, seem to have been acting on a tip-off from a neighbour, who reported unusual activity around the house in Surco district.

Mr Fujimori, who was elected by a landslide in 1990, has sworn to destroy Shining Path before his term of office ends in 1995. Five months ago he dissolved Congress, suspended the constitution and made a clean sweep of the judiciary in order to give him and the security forces a freer hand against the guerrillas. Soon afterwards the government announced that the police had dismantled Shining Path's central intelligence apparatus.

A Shining Path spokesman put a brave front on the reverse last night. 'It might delay a few things, but in the end it will not change anything,' he said.

(Photograph omitted)