Alleged members of the Shining Path guerrilla group are holding seven gas workers hostage after kidnapping 30 in south-central Peru, suggesting that the remaining faction of the rebel organization can still present a significant challenge to the Peruvian government.
In the early hours of 9 April, a group of gunmen allegedly belonging to the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) took 30 people hostage in the village of Kepashiato, close to the Apurimac and Ene River Valley (VRAE) region. The victims, most of whom are employed by Swedish firm Skanska, had been working in the Camisea natural gas fields, reports the Associated Press.
Twenty-three were released within hours, though the whereabouts of the remaining seven remains unknown.
The motive for the kidnapping is unknown. According to some reports, the rebels are demanding the release of Florindo Eleuterio Flores Hala, alias "Comrade Artemio," the leader of the Huallaga Valley faction of the Shining Path, who was captured on 12 February. Others, such as Peru21, are reporting that the kidnappers have asked for a $10 million ransom.
The Shining Path's other remaining faction, led by Victor Quispe Palomino, alias "Comrade Jose," is based in the VRAE, a remote and little-developed region of mountains and jungles.
InSight Crime's Analysis
If the kidnapping was indeed carried out by the Peruvian rebel group, it would mark a rare occurrence. Unlike their guerrilla cousins the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), for example, the Shining Path do not have a particularly strong tradition of kidnapping. Their last mass abduction came in 2003 when they kidnapped 60 employees of an Argentine firm working on the Camisea pipeline.
What is perhaps most interesting, however, is the motive. The two factions are thought to be deeply divided, and Artemio has condemned the VRAE faction for drug trafficking, accusing them of being anti-Maoist and anti-revolutionary. There have also been reports that the VRAE branch was moving to take over Artemio's territory following his capture. It seems unlikely that Jose's faction would be fighting for their rival's release.
This leaves the economic motive. The VRAE faction are reported to be stronger than the northern branch -- which President Ollanta Humala recently said had been completely dismantled -- numbering around 500 fighters. If they are moving into kidnapping more as a source of financing, this could present more problems for Humala's administration. The president declared a state of emergency in the VRAE last year but to date has made no significant security gains against the faction. Jose's group is therefore likely to continue to present a greater problem to the Peruvian government than Artemio's.