On 9th April, a group of Shining Path (SP) rebels kidnapped 36 workers from the Camisea natural gas development in the Cusco region, southern Peru.
The hostages, employees of Swedish company Skanska, had been building a new gas plant from the Camisea field in a remote region of the Apurimac-Ene valley, one of the last SP strongholds. The rebels reportedly demanded a ransom of £6.2m (US$10m) to release the hostages, as well as an additional annual “war contribution” of £750,000 (US$1.2m).
Their demands were rejected outright by the central government, which declared it would not negotiate with terrorists. Instead, President Humala deployed some 1,500 troops to the region to rescue the workers. Shortly after, fighting broke out between rebels and state officials, in which a total of six military and police officers died. Under mounting military pressure, SP rebels eventually fled the area, leaving the hostages behind.
In spite of the casualties, Prime Minister Oscar Valdés described the operation as “impeccable” and reiterated the government’s commitment not to “allow any part of our territory to become a no man’s land where terrorists can do as they please”. SP spokesman, ‘Comrade Gabriel’, also proclaimed the kidnapping a success, saying that killing state officials, not receiving a ransom payment, had always been their aim.
SP, a Maoist extremist group, posed a significant threat to the state during Peru’s internal conflict of the 1980s and early 1990s. Since that time however, their forces have markedly diminished and the group’s remnants now concern themselves primarily with the illegal drugs trade.
This latest incident represented the first large-scale kidnapping in Peru since 2003, when the group captured 70 workers employed by Argentine company Techint.