Friday, April 13, 2012

Perú: Co-Pilot of Police Helicopter Killed in Search for 43 Hostages

According to EFE, the co-pilot of a Peruvian police helicopter was killed and three other persons aboard the chopper injured on Thursday (April 12) wounded when unknown assailants fired on the chopper, causing it to land in the Alto Kepashiato.

When it took on ground fire, the helicopter was searching for 43 employees of Coga and Skansa, (all of whom work on the Camisea natural gas project), who were abducted by an obscure militant cell of the terror group, Sendero Luminoso ("Shining Path"). The mass hostage-taking occurred in the jungles of southeastern Perú's Cuzco region.

Killed in the ground-fire attack was Captain Nancy Flores, the co-pilot, while the pilot, police Maj. Roberto Ramos, gunner Luis Guerrero and a civilian acting as a guide, Elver Huaman, were all wounded.

The helicopter was attacked after it ascended from a landing zone in Kiteni, where the chopper had dropped off a number of police to assist in the search for the hostages.

COMMENT: The hostage-takers, who have not been precisely identified, have demanded US$10 million for the release of the 43 hostages. From a policy stand-point, Perú does not negotiate with hostage-takers, nor does it make concessions of any kind.

The mass abduction took place on Monday (April 9) in the Valley of the Apurimac and Ene Rivers, or VRAE, region, where both drug traffickers and remnants of the Shining Path continue to operate.

The government declared a state of emergency on Wednesday (April 11) in La Convención province and deployed some 1,500 soldiers and police, in an effort to locate the hostages.
Victor Quispe Palomino, known as “Comrade José,” commands the Shining Path fighters in the VRAE region, where, according to officials, the rebels have joined forces with drug cartels and producers of illegal coca, the raw material for cocaine.

Mass-hostage takings are rooted in South American contemporary political history with the mass-hostage taking of at the Japanese Ambassador's residence on December 17, 1996, being one of the longest-running hostage events (126 days) in recent decades.

Although former President Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) was catapulted to popularity as a result of the success of the rescue of the remaining hostages on April 22, 1997, he later became the only head of state to be sentenced to prison in his own country for acts committed while in office.

Grossly underestimating the aggressive efforts of former President Alejandro Toledo (2001-2006) to investigate Fujimori's misconduct while in office, Mr. Fujimori made the mistake of traveling to Chile in November 2005, which resulted in his being arrested there and eventually extradited to Perú for prosecution. He later was tried and convicted four times under a variety of charges. Currently, he is still in prison in Perú.

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