Peru: Sendero fires on police helicopter in Camisea hostage crisis

A National Police helicopter searching for 40 hostages held by presumed Sendero Luminoso guerillas in a rainforest area of Peru's Cuzco region was fired upon April 12, killing a police captain on board, and wounding three others—the pilot, the gunner and a local civilian guide. The shooting happened over Lagunas sector of Echarate district, La Convención province. The government has sent 1,500 soldiers and police troops to the area near the Camisea gas field to try to rescue the construction workers who were seized on April 9. Officials say the guerillas have demanded $10 million in ransom. The administration of President Ollanta Humala has ruled out negotiations. (AP, AAP, Periodismo en Linea, April 12)

Interviews with local campesinos in Kepashiato village by the Lima daily La Republica has provided a clearer picture of the mass abduction. Witnesses told La Republica that at dawn on April 9, a force of some 150 men armed with AK-47s—actually including eight children of around 12 years—entered the village, sealed off the road leading in and out, and rounded up the residents in the central square. As some militants handed out leaflets attacking the Camisea project and the government's Plan VRAE counterinsurgency program, while others took over the installations of the Skanska construction firm. The workers were rounded up and taken away is six trucks.

La Republica indicates that a total of 43 were taken; 40 are still being held, while three were released at midday from a guerilla camp and sent walking towards Kiteni village with instructions to communicate to the Camisea personnel there the ransom demand. (La Republica, April 11)

See our last post on Peru, the hostage crisis and the struggle for the Amazon.

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