Two top commanders of Peru’s Shining Path Maoist group are believed to have been killed in a clash with government troops in southeast Peru, President Ollanta Humala has said.
Intelligence sources on the scene indicated that the group’s number-two commander, Alejandro Borda Casafranca, known as “Comrade Alipio,” was among the three dead, Humala said on Monday.
Also killed, according to the intelligence, was Antonio Quispe Palomino, “Comrade Gabriel,” the younger brother of the guerrilla group’s leader, Victor Quispe Palomino.
The attack would be the biggest blow to the rebel group and the drug-trafficking operations it controls since the military captured a top ideological leader last year.
“It’s a severe blow to terrorism,” Humala said, predicting that remnants of the group would go into a leadership crisis.
Humana told reporters that authorities were performing autopsies to confirm identities.
The third man was said to be a right-hand man to Borda Casafranca who goes by the nom de guerre “Comrade Alfonso,” according to Humala.
The clash occurred on Sunday night in Llochegua, a heavily jungled area in the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro River Valley where Shining Path fighters work in partnership with cocaine traffickers.
The rebels took refuge in the region after the Maoist group was disbanded in September 1992 with the capture of its paramount leader Abimael Guzman.
Shining Path’s insurgency began in 1980, igniting a two decades-long conflict that has left 69,000 dead or missing.
The group has largely been crushed by the army but remnants of the group remain, and they often attack military patrols in jungle areas.