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Last Updated: Friday, 11 July, 2003, 21:46 GMT 22:46 UK
Peru rebel ambush raises fears
Soldiers guard the coffins of the ambushed soldiers
Soldiers guard the coffins of the ambushed soldiers

Suspected left-wing guerrillas in Peru have ambushed a marine patrol in a remote area of the country, killing seven people and wounding 10 more, military sources say.

This would be the most serious attack by the Shining Path rebel movement in at least four years.

It would also signal a possible resurgence by the group - a feared guerrilla organisation in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The attack is reported to have taken place in a remote mountainous area of Ayacucho, a traditional Shining Path stronghold.

"Bullets were coming in from every direction," a marine officer told the Associated Press.

In the chaos, the marines were unable to see their attackers but it was unlikely any rebels were killed, he said.

The dead were reported to be five marines and two civilian guides.

New phase?

The Peruvian security forces have recently intensified their search for suspected Shining Path members in the area - which is under a state of emergency.

In June, rebels kidnapped 71 pipeline workers in the same region, releasing them a day later.

The attacks have raised fears that the guerrillas are moving into a new phase of violence after a nearly a decade of inactivity.

However, some military analysts believe the incidents are the work of isolated survivors and that Shining Path - known in Spanish as Sendero Luminoso - is a long way from regaining its former strength.

The group's power appeared broken after its founder, Abimael Guzman, was captured in 1992.

Shining Path is blamed for about half of the 30,00 deaths from political violence since it launched its armed campaign in 1980.

The BBC's Juliet Dunlop
"Fears that the guerrillas are moving into a new phase of violence after a decade of inactivity"

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