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Shining Path 'remnants' blamed for Peru kidnap

Hugo Ned Alarcon,Peru
Thursday 12 June 2003 00:00 BST

Soldiers and police in Peru were searching yesterday for leftist rebels who seized and later released 71 workers from a pipeline construction camp high in the Andes.

Soldiers found the hostages on Tuesday in the jungle near the village of Palma Pampa, about 250 miles south-east of Lima, after the rebels released them, an army officer said.

Alejandro Toledo, the President, said later that troops were closing in on the guerrillas, who had demanded a ransom of $1m (£600,000). "We have rescued [the hostages] alive, safe and sound ... without making any payment," he said. How the hostages were freed was not clear.

The President blamed "remnants of the Shining Path" Maoist rebels for the kidnapping and said his administration would not negotiate with the guerrillas. The kidnappers had also asked for 20 radios, 500 boxes of explosives, vitamins and antibiotics, police said.

Security forces returned the hostages to the camp of the Argentinian petroleum company Techint, near the village of Toccate, where they had been kidnapped on Monday.

Julio Aguilar, a jack hammer operator who was among the hostages, told a local radio station that 15 to 20 guerrillas had made the raid. "They were all armed," he said, adding that children and at least 10 women were with them. Techint has been using the camp to build a pipeline to carry natural gas from the Amazon jungle across the Andes to the Pacific coast.

The captives included three police officers and seven foreigners - six Colombians and one Chilean, Mr Toledo said.

The Shining Path nearly drove the government to its knees in the 1990s with car bombings, assassinations and massacres of peasant communities that refused to support them. The group was not well known for ransom-driven kidnappings. The capture of Abimael Guzman, its founder, in 1992 helped to crush the campaign, in which about 30,000 people died between 1980 and the early 1990s. (AP)

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