Army Officer Killed In VRAEM Days After Shining Path Leader Killed

A Peruvian army officer was killed Friday, in the most recent attack by remnant rebel groups in southern Peru, according to newspaper El Comercio.

The attack occurred just days after authorities announced the killing a high-ranking Shining Path leader, known as “Comrade William” in the valleys of the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro rivers, an area known strategically as the VRAEM.

Fedia Castro, the mayor of the La Convencion province in Peru’s southern Cusco region, said that a rebel sharpshooter fired on a military helicopter killing Yoni Huartorongo.

The Shining Path has a strong presence in the VRAEM, where they are heavily involved and profit from the cocaine trade.  The area, which straddles parts of the Cusco, Huancavelica and Ayacucho regions, was expanded earlier this year to include the Mantaro Valley in Junin, a major route for transporting inputs needed in cocaine production.  

The heavily-armed splinter group has regularly killed Peruvian military and police officers. One of the most recent attacks included the killing of five soldiers on a dawn patrol in Junin, while earlier this year nine police and military officers were killed in a botched operation to rescue kidnapped natural gas workers, and a police pilot was killed when his helicopter was downed by a sharpshooter.

The Shining Path waged a bloody conflict against the Peruvian state in the 1980s and 1990s. Some 70,000 people were killed during the conflict as the Shining Path, a Maoist-inspired rebel group, tried to overtake the Peruvian state. Some 46% of the killings were attributed to the Shining Path, although the Peruvian military was also responsible for a significant number, according to Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, CVR.

The Shining Path remnants operating in the VRAEM have little connection today to the Maoist philosophy of the group’s jailed founder and leader, Abimael Guzman.

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