LIMA, Peru – Peruvian troops rescued seven children and eight adults who were kidnapped by Shining Path rebels, an official said Saturday.
The children, aged 4 to 13, were malnourished and had skin diseases, said Deputy Defense Minister Ivan Vega. The rescue took place with no shots fired, he said.
The Shining Path, a Maoist guerrilla group that fought successive governments starting in 1980, was for the most part dismantled in the mid-1990s but its remnants remain active in coca-growing areas of Peru.
The fighting left some 69,000 people dead, according to Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The government accuses the remnants of the group of working with drug traffickers to raise money. The rebels keep children and women as hostages to use them as human shields against attacks and to raise the youth in bondage with an eye to raising them as rebel fighters, the government says.
The guerrillas have a home base in what Peru calls the VRAEM — an area of largely untouched jungle in south central Peru connecting the regions of Huancayo, Ayacucho, Apurimác and Cusco.
On Monday the army said it had freed 26 children and 13 adults. Vega said the rebels are holding 60 to 80 more children in hard-to-reach areas.