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Wednesday, July 14, 1999 Published at 17:33 GMT 18:33 UK


World: Americas

Peruvian rebel leader captured

A huge commando operation tracked the rebel leader down

Peru has captured the leader of the Shining Path rebel group according to President Alberto Fujimori.

The president had personally overseen an army operation involving 1,500 troops in Peru's central highlands.


Sally Bowen reports from Lima: "Sendero Luminoso has not been a threat for quite some time"
Mr Fujimori said the soldiers surrounded and captured Oscar Ramirez Durand, alias Feliciano.

He had headed Shining Path, or Sendero Luminoso, since the 1992 capture of its founder, Abimael Guzman. The organisation has been fighting for the past 19 years to establish a communist state in Peru.


[ image: Oscar Ramirez Durand: rebel leader since 1992]
Oscar Ramirez Durand: rebel leader since 1992
On Tuesday, Ramirez Durand, who wears glasses and walks with a limp from an old bullet wound, had been spotted by soldiers in a jungle gorge 225 km east of the capital, Lima.

He was accompanied by only five rebel fighters at the time and tried to escape from the army patrols who discovered him, President Fujimori said.

Mr Fujimori, speaking from a military base in Jauja, near where the guerrilla leader was captured, said Mr Ramirez Durand would be taken to the Callao naval base, near Lima, and submitted to a secret military trial.

At the same base, Mr Guzman is serving a life sentence without parole at a high-security prison for guerrilla leaders.

The president added that Mr Ramirez Durand, like Mr Guzman, would spend the rest of his life behind bars.


[ image: President Fujimori oversaw the chase personally]
President Fujimori oversaw the chase personally
More than 30,000 people, including soldiers, rebels and civilians, have died in political violence in Peru since the Shining Path took up arms in 1980.

The government claims that Shining Path has caused damage of more than $20bn to the national economy.

In the 1990s, the government of President Fujimori has scored some spectacular successes against the guerrillas, correspondents say. But they continued to operate in some remoter parts of the country.

The Maoist Shining Path was once Latin America's most feared guerrilla movement, BBC South America Stephen Cviic says.

Using ruthless methods, it managed to win control of large swathes of the Peruvian countryside. But after the capture of Mr Guzman, the movement then split.

From his prison cell Mr Guzman advocated a peace deal, but the other faction, led by Oscar Ramirez Durand, vowed to carry on fighting.

"Faceless trials"

As part of the drive to eliminate Shining Path, the controversial law which protects the identity of judges and witnesses has been extended by the Peruvian congress.

The so-called 'faceless trials', where judges sit with hoods over their heads, have convicted more than 3,000 suspected guerrillas since 1992.

But human rights groups have repeatedly criticised the decision to extend the measures.

They say that many hundreds of innocent people have been wrongly convicted under the system.



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Internet Links


Peru's La Republica newspaper

Sendero Luminoso Pathfinder

Committee to Support the Revolution in Peru

Amnesty International Peru


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