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Peru Rescues Dozens of Hostages Held Captive by Shining Path Rebels for Decades

The government is accusing the Maoist group, Sendero Luminoso, or the Shining Path, of raping the hostages and forcing them into farm labor.

by Hilary Beaumont
Jul 29 2015, 9:45pm

La police en patrouille en 2009 dans la zone dans laquelle sont établis les rebelles du Sentier Lumineux. (Photo de Martin Mejia pour AP)

The Peruvian military has rescued 39 people who were kidnapped by a Marxist rebel group as far back as 30 years ago and held in captivity on a farm in one of the world's largest cocaine-producing regions.

With the help of a former hostage who had escaped a month ago, the military deployed 120 soldiers and four helicopters to save the hostages in a nine day operation.

The army is accusing the Maoist group, Sendero Luminoso, or the Shining Path, of raping the hostages and forcing them into farm labor.

One of the rescued captives was a 70-year-old woman who had been abducted from a nunnery, officials said; another was a toddler.

Many of the rebel group's children prisoners were born after their mothers were raped, government officials said. 

And some of the children didn't want to be rescued because the rebels had told them the army was the enemy and wanted to kill them, according to the BBC.

"The children are gathered to work in agriculture and the women are expected to procreate and give birth to more rebels," Vice Defense Minister Ivan Vega Loncharich told the BBC.

About 100 hostages are still believed to be in captivity, according to Peru This Week.

Related: Video Shows Frenzied Clash at Protest Over Plan to Build Massive Copper Mine in Peru

Sendero Luminoso, which currently operates in Peru's largest cocaine-producing region, has a bloody reputation in the country stemming back 35 years. In 1980, the group announced its arrival by hanging dead dogs from lampposts across Peru and burning ballot boxes.

The group's goal was to create a communist society by violently tearing down the existing government. Funded by the drug trade, they mounted an insurgency that ultimately led to the forced disappearances of an estimated 15,000 people. As many as 70,000 people died in the conflict between the Shining Path and the government.

Last fall, the remains of 65 people murdered by the rebel group were returned to their families 30 years after they were killed, Peru This Week reported.

Prosecutor Carlos Americo Ramon Heredia told the news outlet there were still many graves that have not been found. Nearly 3,000 bodies have been discovered since 2006, a small number compared to the number of people who are still missing.

Follow Hilary Beaumont on Twitter@hilarybeamont

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