Shining Path rebels in Peru’s isolated areas of the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro River Valleys (VRAEM) are thought to be behind a series of attacks on telecommunications infrastructure, analysts say.
Last week, a rebel column blew up a telephone tower operated by Telefonica Movistar in the province of Huanta, located in the Ayacucho region. The local unit of Spanish telecommunications giant Telefonica said that communications services to the district of Llochegua were affected by the attack.
“The incident is under investigation by authorities,” Telefonica Movistar said in a statement on Monday.
That attack comes just days after three telephone towers were destroyed in Huancavelica region’s Tayacaja province. Those towers were owned by Claro Peru, the local unit of Mexico’s America Movil.
Jaime Antezana, a drug trafficking analyst, said the attacks are part of the Shining Path’s strategy to prevent communications between state intelligence services and informants. Antezana was reported saying by daily Peru.21 that informants recently helped security personnel reach a camp where a Shining Path leader was staying.
The splinter group of the Shining Path in the VRAEM is heavily involved in drug trafficking. The VRAEM valleys are Peru’s top producers of coca, used to make cocaine.
Huachocolpa, where one of the Claro towers was downed in Tayacaja province, is on one of main drug trafficking routes. The towers are part of the FITEL communications system, which supplies mobile telephone service to rural and outlying areas.
Over the past year, rebels have also kidnapped energy workers and attacked an airstrip where they destroyed helicopters.