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07 June 2023

Peru captures wounded Shining Path rebel leader


Peru's military Sunday captured a key figure in the once feared Shining Path guerrillas, who was badly wounded in a battle with security forces, the defense minister announced.

The man known as Comrade Artemio "is alive and receiving the appropriate medical attention," said the minister, Alberto Otarola, after President Ollanta Humala had earlier said the guerrilla fighter's dead body had been found.

"He is badly wounded and has all but lost his right arm," Otarola added.

A military offensive was launched last week in southeastern Peru's Puerto Pizana area of the Alto Huallaga jungle to capture Comrade Artemio, 47, whose real name is Florindo Flores.

Defense officials said at the time they believed the guerrilla leader had been wounded.

Artemio -- who had been on the run for more than two decades -- was eventually found in a small hut in the jungle, where he had hidden after a battle with security forces on Thursday.

"Now we must also act against drug trafficking in this area," Humala said Sunday. "That is how the pacification of the Alto Huallaga area really can get started."

Artemio was later transferred to Lima aboard a military transport plane and taken to a police hospital for further treatment, according to images broadcast on local television.

The government of Humala -- a former army officer who helped battle the rebels in the 1990s -- has been seeking to eradicate the last vestiges of Shining Path, which was one of Latin America's bloodiest guerrilla movements.

The rebels were all but eliminated in the 1990s under president Alberto Fujimori, after the arrest of its leader, Abimael Guzman.

Artemio was the last member still at large of the "Historic Committee of the Shining Path," which refers to the organization's traditional leadership, according to analysts.

Some 70,000 people were killed between 1980 and 2000 as the Lima government crushed the Shining Path and a rival leftist guerrilla group, the Tupac Amaru movement, according to Peru's independent Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

It is still listed by Peru and the US State Department as a terrorist organization.

Remnants of the rebel forces -- believed to number about 300 -- remain in two coca-growing regions of the country: the Alto Huallaga Valley, and the Apurimac and Ene River valleys. Some worked as hired guns for drug-runners.

Peru had offered $350,000 (Dh1.28m) for information leading to Artemio's capture and the US government another $5 million.

Artemio's capture is the biggest score for Humala's government in the fight against the rebels since he took office in July 2011.

The rebel leader is single and has no children.