Latin America & Caribbean

Peru rebels burn helicopters at jungle airfield

One of the three helicopters burnt down in a rebel attack in Peru
Image caption Three helicopters were destroyed in the attack on the airfield in Cusco province

Left-wing Shining Path rebels in Peru have burned three helicopters used by a private gas consortium, officials say.

The rebels carried out the attack in the central region of Cusco - the same area where they kidnapped a group of gas workers in April.

The Shining Path has been severely weakened since it started its insurgency in the 1980s.

However remnants continue to be active in parts of the country and have allied themselves with drug traffickers.

The attack in the early hours of Saturday happened at the airfield in Kiteni, in the jungle region of Cusco, close to the only natural gas pipeline in the country.

No-one was injured or abducted, the military said. It is not clear why the rebels attacked the airstrip.

Local media said the rebels may have been trying to ambush a military patrol, and when they failed, decided to attack the airstrip instead.

Following the incident, the consortium Transportadora de Gas del Peru (TGP) said it would suspend all maintenance work in the region.

"We trust that the state will provide the resources and take the steps necessary to reestablish security in the area," TGP said in a statement.

'War contribution'

In April, a group of 36 gas workers was briefly kidnapped by the Shining Path in the same area.

The rebels had reportedly demanded a "war contribution" from the gas workers' employer.

The Peruvian army has sent reinforcements to the area to protect the airfield.

The Maoist Shining Path rebel group posed a major challenge to the Peruvian state in the 1980s and early 1990s, but is now reduced to small gangs involved in cocaine trafficking.

More than a dozen members of the security forces have been killed in clashes with the rebels so far this year.

And while the government says it has defeated the rebels in their stronghold in the Alto Huallaga Valley, the guerrilla group has mounted a series of successful attack in Peru's south-eastern Apurimac and Ene valleys, where much of the country's coca is grown.

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