Peru dismantles Shining Path rebel column: officials

Alexander Alarcon (L) and Dionisio Ramos, members of Shining Path guerrilla group, are escorted by security on their arrival in Lima on August 10, 2015, after their arrest in the Amazonian region of Junin (AFP Photo/Cris Bouroncle)

Lima (AFP) - Peru has dismantled a column of Maoist guerrilla group Shining Path by capturing two of its leaders, the government said Monday.

A military intelligence operation led the army to the leaders, Dionisio Ramos and Alexander Alarcon Soto, both suspected of killing police and soldiers in the southeastern province of Cusco, shooting down a helicopter and attacking a police station, said Deputy Defense Minister Ivan Vega.

Soldiers seized weapons and explosives from the pair that were stashed near a gas pipeline connecting Camisea, one of Latin America's largest gas reserves, to the capital Lima.

"With this operation, the southern wing of Shining Path is dismantled. An energy and tourism hub is secured. It is possible they will send another column to take over the zone, but we will be watching," said Vega.

Shining Path waged a bloody rebellion in the 1980s and 1990s that left some 69,000 people dead in civil strife nationwide.

It has been largely dismantled since the capture of its leader Abimael Guzman in 1992, but surged back into the headlines last month when the army freed 54 captives being held deep in the jungle by remnants of the group.

The captives had been forced to work in slavery and have children with guerrillas, who were then inducted into the rebels' ranks, officials said.

They were rescued from a densely forested corner of the Amazon known as VRAEM -- the Valley of the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro Rivers -- which includes the area where the two men captured at the weekend allegedly operated.

The government estimates Shining Path today has some 350 members, including 80 armed fighters.

It is active in coca-growing regions and is believed to use the illegal drug trade to fund itself.

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