Five Peruvian soldiers were killed in an attack reportedly carried out by the VRAE-based faction of Peru's Shining Path guerrilla group, evidence that, despite the continued state of emergency in the area, the government is still far from eliminating the rebels from their last remaining stronghold.
Alleged Shining Path guerrillas launched an attack Aug. 15 on a military base in Mazangaro, Junin region, killing five Peruvian soldiers and injuring seven others, reported the AFP.
Mazangaro lies in Peru's lawless Apurimac and Ene River Valley (VRAE) where a state of emergency has been in place since May 2003. The region is home to the Shining Path's last remaining faction of some 500 fighters, led by Victor Quispe Palomino, alias "Comrade Jose."
According to La Republica, the attack could be in repsonse to the army's seizure three days prior to the assault of 800 kilos of precursor chemicals used in the production of cocaine.
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Despite dismantling the Shining Path's Huallaga-based faction in northern Peru earlier this year, the government has had no such success in the VRAE where the rebels continue to operate with relative ease. In addition to this latest attack, the group has been able to embarrass the government on a number of occasions this year, kidnapping 36 gas workers in April and subsequently ambushing, and killing security patrols sent to rescue the hostages. One of the faction's leaders even gave a surprise interview to journalists in the rebel stronghold, appearing unfazed by the government's military offensive against the group.
The VRAE is by no means home to only the Shining Path, however. Much of the cocaine trade in the VRAE is divided amongst Peru's cocaine clans, as a recent series by IDL-Reporteros outlined. These clans operate in conjunction with the Shining Path, according to the report, with the rebels acting as guards for drug shipments as well as controlling their own trafficking networks. If the attack was a reprisal for the army's seizure of precursors chemicals, the Shining Path may have acted on behalf of others and not necessarily on its own.