Peru Shining Path leader Comrade Artemio captured

Image caption,
Last year Artemio admitted the Shining Path had been defeated

The leader of the remnants of Peru's once-powerful Shining Path rebel group has been captured, government officials have announced.

The guerrilla leader known as "Comrade Artemio" was found badly wounded after a clash with troops in a remote jungle region, the defence minister said.

The Maoist Shining Path movement posed a major challenge to the Peruvian state in the 1980s and early 90s.

But it is now reduced to small bands involved in drug trafficking.

'Mission accomplished'

President Ollanta Humala said the capture of Artemio marked the defeat of the Shining Path in the Alto Huallaga valley - a centre of cocaine production.

"In the name of the police and the army we can say to the country: mission accomplished," Mr Humala said during a visit to the units involved.

Mr Humala added that he would now step up the fight against the other remaining band of Shining Path rebels in the Ene-Apurimac valley.

Initial reports said Artemio - whose real name is Florindo Eleuterio Flores - was dead.

But Defence Minister Alberto Otarola said he had been found alive but badly wounded.

"He has practically lost his right arm and he is being given medical attention," Mr Otarola said.

Some Peruvian media reports suggested Artemio may have been betrayed or abandoned by his fellow guerrillas.

He has been flown to the capital Lima for questioning and further medical treatment.

Last December Artemio admitted to reporters that the Shining Path had been defeated, and said the remaining rebels were ready to negotiate with the government.

One of those journalists, Gustavo Gorriti, told the BBC that the violence was not necessarily over.

But Artemio's arrest was highly significant, Mr Gorriti said.

"He'd been in continuous guerrilla activities of one sort or another since 1983. It was an era that was rife with tragedy and bloodshed. With his capture, in effect, comes the closure."

'People's War'

An estimated 70,000 Peruvians died in the conflict between the Shining Path and government forces, which peaked in the 1980s and early 90s.

Inspired by Maoism, the rebels tried to lead a "People's War" to overthrow what they called "bourgeois democracy" and establish a Communist state.

But the movement lost force after the capture of its founder and leader Abimael Guzman in 1992.

The remnants of the Shining Path have fought on in the Alto Huallaga and Ene-Apurimac valleys - two remote jungle regions dominated by the cocaine trade.

The capture of Artemio is the first major blow to the rebels since President Humala took office last July.

Mr Humala fought against the guerrillas as an army officer in the 1990s.