Hostages freed in Peru

More than 70 workers building a major gas pipeline in south-eastern Peru were freed late on Tuesday, a day after being held hostage.

    Peru says no ransom was given
    for the release of hostages

    Peru’s President Alejandro Toledo said the kidnappers were members of the Shining Path rebel group that had waged a bloody battle against the state throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

    Toledo said all the hostages were “safe and sound” after being rescued, hailing the military and police for a “rapid, efficient” operation.

    Toledo, who declared a state of emergency late last month to rein in violent protests against his rule, pledged that Peru would defeat the Maoist Shining Path group.

    Defence Minister Aurelio Loret De Mola said the rebels were forced to abandon captives unharmed after security forces blocked escape routes.

    Toledo said officials were now searching for the kidnappers near Toccate, a remote construction camp in a mountainous jungle region where Argentine conglomerate Techint is building a pipeline for a giant natural gas project.

    The Peruvian President said the kidnappers did not receive the $1 million ransom they were demanding for the release of the captives.

    A Techint executive in Peru confirmed that no ransom was paid.

    A released hostage said 15 to 20 armed people, including women, entered the camp in the early hours of Monday.

    Among the hostages were six Columbians and one Chilean.

    Rebels still operating

    Lima believes rebels are still operating in remote jungle areas, working with drug runners. Peru is the number two cocaine-producing nation in the world. 

    The swift rescue was a relief for Toledo, whose popularity is dropping. Many in impoverished Peru say he has failed to fulfil pledges of jobs and prosperity.

    Peru has high hopes for the gas project, an up to $2 billion deal that the Toledo government hails as a foreign investment model which will turn the country into an energy exporter.


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