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Last Updated: Friday, 5 November 2004, 13:37 GMT
Profile: Peru's Shining Path
Villagers killed by Shining Path
Villagers were often killed by Shining Path rebels
In its heyday in the 1980s, the Shining Path was the most formidable rebel movement in Latin America, waging a brutal war with the Peruvian state.

Not only did the Maoist group control large areas of the countryside but it also struck at targets in the capital, Lima, prompting fears it could eventually take over the country.

Some 70,000 died in the rebellion and the counter-insurgency campaign it triggered.

The violence only abated after Shining Path leader Abimael Guzman was captured in 1992.

Maoist movement

Guzman formed the movement in the 1970s, inspired by Mao's Cultural Revolution in China.

Maoist movement formed by Abimael Guzman in the 1970s
Launched insurgency in rural areas in 1980
70,000 killed in terror and counter-terror campaigns
Guzman arrested and sentenced by military panel in 1992
Movement weakened and confined to jungle areas

He launched the war against the government in 1980, burning ballot boxes on the eve of the first democratic election in 12 years.

Striving to establish a perfect, communist state, the Shining Path imposed its ruthless rule on the rural area it seized, killing villagers suspected of siding with the government.

In 2003 a government commission blamed the Sendero Luminoso - as the group is known in Spanish - for 54% of the violent deaths caused by the civil war.

The worst atrocities included the killing of 69 villagers in 1983, and a van bombing that killed about 20 people in Lima in July 1992.

However two months later Guzman was captured in the capital, along with six other rebel leaders.

He was swiftly tried behind closed doors by a military court, and sentenced to life imprisonment - which dealt a decisive blow to the movement.

However in 2003 Peru's constitutional court struck down the anti-terror laws enacted under former President Alberto Fujimori.

This resulted in Guzman's sentence being overturned, and a civilian trial was launched.

Coca focus

With Guzman gone - and belatedly calling for a ceasefire - the Shining Path saw it membership dwindle. By 1994 about 6,000 guerrillas had surrendered under a government amnesty programme.

In the mid-1990s guerrilla leader Oscar Ramirez Durand attempted to spearhead a resurgence of the movement.

Abimael Guzman
Guzman was paraded in a cage after his arrest in 1992
But Mr Ramirez - alias Feliciano - could only count on the backing of a few hundred men.

The rump faction of the Shining Path was largely confined to jungle regions in eastern Peru.

Mr Ramirez was in turn captured in 1999, and is now facing civilian judges, alongside Guzman and other Shining Path leaders.

The movement was further weakened in September 2004, when police arrested 17 members, and clearly no longer has the power to undermine the Peruvian state.

Its biggest recent actions include a car bomb in Lima in 2002 and a 2003 kidnapping.

The group's focus now seems to be on coca farmers - defending them against possible government intervention.

President Alejandro Toledo has not taken the kind of direct action seen in neighbouring Bolivia, where the army were sent in to destroy coca fields.

Peru hostages set free
11 Jun 03 |  Americas
Peru's coca farmers accept truce
05 Mar 03 |  Business
Power struggle in Peru
21 Dec 97 |  In Depth
Peruvian rebel leader captured
15 Jul 99 |  Americas
Peru rebels 'to stay in jail'
07 Jan 03 |  Americas

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