Peru interior minister: deadly attack on police station not sign of new insurgency group

Interior Minister Luis Alva Castro rejected claims that a new insurgency is responsible for the attack on an Ocobamba police station in Peru’s southern Apurímac department. “The existence of a new terrorist group is pure speculation,” he told daily Peru.21. “The intelligence services have rejected this possibility.”

Officers at the station said 70 to 80 people attacked them on November 1, killing police Lt. Colonel Héctor Zegarra, and wounding three others. Authorities maintained the attack was orchestrated by drug traffickers trying to recuperate 180 pounds of cocaine paste confiscated days earlier.

But sociologist Jaime Antezana – expert on drug trafficking and insurgent movements – said the attack has less to do with recuperating cocaine paste and more with a new internal armed conflict and resurgence of Shining Path activity in Peru. “The message from [Ocobamba] is that everyone in favor of coca are friends, are allies. On the other side is the state, the police, the alternative development programs. These are their enemies,” Antezana told the Enlace Nacional TV network. He added that drug barons who finance the drug trade should be the main concern, not the Shining Path.

Ocobamba is used to move drugs out of the coca growing Apurímac and Ene river valleys (VRAE). A 2006 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report showed more than 37,000 acres in the VRAE are used for coca cultivation, representing over 30 percent of national cultivation. The report said 126,598 acres were used to cultivate coca in 2006, a seven percent increase from 2005.

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