Twelve soldiers and seven civilians have been killed in an ambush of military trucks in Peru by rebels.
Women and children were among those killed in the deadliest rebel attack by Shining Path guerrillas in years,
The trucks were returning to the Cochabamba Grande base in Huancavelica province, the military said tonight.
The military statement said civilians were passengers in the vehicles with the soldiers when they were ambushed near the town of Tintaypunco.
Peru’s conflict with the guerrillas had been largely dormant for more than a decade, but clashes have become more common as the government cracks down on remnants of the guerrilla group who work in the cocaine trade to finance their insurgency.
An estimated 300 Shining Path cadres remain active in the Vizcatan region, considered the group’s last stronghold.
The military sent 1,000 troops to the region last month. Peru’s military chief, General Otto Guibovich, said last week that it was the first time troops have been dispatched there since what is left of the Shining Path moved to Vizcatan more than a decade ago.
In the days before the ambush, one soldier and five rebels were killed in fighting in the area, and 15 suspected guerrillas were captured, the military said.
Nearly 70,000 people were killed from 1980 to the mid-90s in the Shining Path’s brutal effort to impose a Maoist communist regime on Peru. Most were peasants caught in the crossfire between security forces and the guerrillas, who numbered as many as 10,000 at their peak.
The rebel threat was virtually eliminated by former President Alberto Fujimori, a democratically elected leader who ruled with an iron fist until his regime ended in scandal in 2000. He is now on trial for human rights violations.