Peru’s Army is preparing one of its largest offensives in two decades against Shining Path rebels, officials said on April 20, hoping to quash remnants of the group that embarrassed the government a week ago.
To avoid civilian casualties, the Military was evacuating hundreds of indigenous people from villages in a treacherous bundle of serpentine jungle valleys known as the “Dog’s Ear,” where the Maoist rebels have used landmines, snipers and ambushes against government forces.
Thousands of troops were being deployed as President Ollanta Humala, a former military officer, responds to a public outcry that rebels brazenly
kidnapped 36 natural gas workers, shot down a helicopter and killed six security agents in recent days.
The leader of the group, Martin Quispe Palomino, who had never before shown his face to the media, appeared on local television this week and openly
mocked the Peruvian Army’s losses. He said the hostages, who were released on April 14, were taken as a ruse to lure soldiers into ambushes.
“What’s coming is an all-out military operation. It’s all or nothing,” said one high-ranking Military official. “It was a setback for us. There were deaths and a helicopter was lost. So a very strong Military offensive is coming because there is very intense political pressure to show results.”
One of the Army’s concerns was that some of the rebels might have hidden their weapons and were mingling with villagers to avoid capture.
“Humala has demanded results because he wants to pacify the region and has said that somebody will be held responsible for every death we’ve suffered,”
the same official said.
Taking control of the lawless region in the Ene and Apurimac River Valleys of southeastern Peru, where the Military estimates there are about 400 rebels, is crucial for Humala’s economic plans.
The rebels in the lawless region are led by Quispe Palomino, who is known as Comrade Gabriel, and his brothers. The United Nations has called it the most
productive coca-growing region in the world.