Tuesday 27 September 2016

Women freed from Maoist guerilla jungle camp after 30 years' captivity

James Badcock in Lima

Published 29/07/2015 | 02:30

Peruvian Army members ushering adults and children to helicopters at the Air Force base in the jungle town of Mazamari, after their liberation by the armed forces from captivity by the Maoist guerrilla group Shining Path.
Peruvian Army members ushering adults and children to helicopters at the Air Force base in the jungle town of Mazamari, after their liberation by the armed forces from captivity by the Maoist guerrilla group Shining Path.

Peruvian security forces have rescued 13 women and 26 children who they say were being held captive by Shining Path guerrillas in a remote jungle hideaway, some for as long as three decades.

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According to Peru's deputy defence minister, Iván Vega, the women and children were being kept as slaves by members of the Maoist rebels, who subjected their victims to forced labour and obliged the younger women to have sexual relations with militants. Among them were women whom the Shining Path had abducted from a mission run by nuns in the Andean town of Puerto Ocopa 25 years ago.

Mr Vega described the hiding place in the Junín region, where the captives were found in a joint police and army raid, as a "production camp" providing insurgents with food supplies and a breeding ground for future guerrilla fighters.

Announcing the operation on Monday, the minister said that the children rescued were aged between one and 14. "Many of these children were born in this place and they are the result of Shining Path members raping women," Mr Vega said.

The defence ministry official claimed that children born in such a camp would be indoctrinated into the Shining Path's extreme Maoist ideology in order to serve the organisation in an operational capacity at a later date.

"The terrorist leader Jorge Quispe Palomino must understand that the civilian population cannot be subjected to slavery," the defence minister said. "There are no Peruvian slaves and the government is not going to tolerate it."

Peru's minister for women and vulnerable populations told local media that this was the largest number of children ever found in a Shining Path camp in the region. Marcela Huaita added that the women from the camp, some of whom are in their sixties, "have been captives for 25 or 30 years and subjected to continued violence, including multiple situations of sexual violence".

The Shining Path, described by the US Treasury as a "criminal narco-terrorist organisation", started its armed insurgency in 1980 with the aim of overthrowing Peru's fragile democracy of that time. Its eccentric founder Abimael Guzmán, the self-styled President Gonzalo, was captured in 1992 and remains in prison where he is serving a life sentence. Quispe Palomino, alias Comrade Raúl, is now believed to be the head of the group, which is confined to remote jungle areas.

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