The Shining Path guerrillas in Peru have broken months of calm with a series of attacks against military targets, in what could be the beginning of a resurgence or alternatively a sign of weakness after the killing of key leaders.
On February 17, a group of around 30 members of the Shining Path faction active in the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro River Valleys (VRAEM) launched an assault against Kepashiato military base in the province of Cusco.
The next day, the guerrillas followed up with further attacks against military bases in Union Mantaro and Ccano in neighboring province of Ayacucho, then engaging in several more assaults over the next week.
The attacks marked the first serious confrontations between the Shining Path and the military since November last year, reported El Comercio. The head of the joint police-military Special VRAEM Commando unit, Leonardo Longa Lopez, told El Comercio the attacks were a desperate reaction to anti-narcotics efforts in the region.
However, analysts consulted by El Comercio said the attacks were likely a delayed response to the killings of Alejandro Borda Casafranca, alias “Alipio,” and Martin Quispe Palomino, alias “Gabriel,” last year, and may well mark the start of a new offensive.
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After all but eradicating the faction of the Shining Path active in Upper Huallaga Valley in the north of Peru, the authorities have turned their attention to the VRAEM faction, which may not be large but time and again has proven it retains the military capacity to cause the state significant headaches.
Building on the damage to the group’s organizational structure from the killings of Alipio and Gabriel, authorities have now turned to the guerrillas’ main source of funding — drug trafficking.
SEE ALSO: Shining Path Profile
The Shining Path regulate the coca base market, protect drug shipments and help secure illegal airstrips. To choke off this revenue source, Peruvian authorities have already launched operations to destroy airstrips and plan to drastically increase coca eradication efforts in the VRAEM.
The Shining Path certainly seem to have been laying low and regrouping in recent months and the recent attacks suggest an end to this period of calm. However, whether they represent the start of a concerted offensive to fight off government efforts in the region, or are a desperate reaction to the government campaign borne out of weakness, remains to be seen.
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