Shining Path leader taken without a shot
JAUJA, Peru (CNN) -- Army commandos captured the top commander of one of
Latin America's most violent rebel movements Wednesday as he tried to
escape through the rugged Andes highlands.
"This morning Feliciano has been captured. This is the beginning of the
Shining Path," President Alberto Fujimori told local radio station Radioprogramas
from Jauja, about 185 miles (300 km) east of Lima, where he was overseeing the
manhunt for Oscar Ramirez Durand.
Ramirez Durand, who goes by the name "Comrade Feliciano," was the last
national leader of the Shining Path insurgency still at large. He was cornered,
along with three women rebels, after being pursued by a force of 1,500
commandos for two weeks, and was captured without a shot being fired.
"We have the man," Fujimori said. "His health is fine but he's hungry because
he has not eaten for three days. He has been surrounded for various days
and the pursuit has been intense."
Rebel to go to high-security prison
The secretive Ramirez Durand symbolized the dogmatism and relentless
violence of the rebel movement which only a few years ago nearly brought
the Peruvian state and its economy to their knees in a war that has cost
about 30,000 lives.
The capture was sure to boost Fujimori's popularity. His consistent
hard-line stance against rebels since he came to power in 1990 has won
widespread approval among Peruvians.
Fujimori, speaking from a military base near where the guerrilla leader
was captured, said the detainees would be taken to Lima and held at
a high-security prison at a naval base in Callao that holds Shining Path
founder Abimael Guzman.
Fujimori said Ramirez Durand would be submitted to a secret military trial
and then spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Ramirez Durand took control of the movement in 1992 after the capture of
Guzman. While the founder was known as an ideologue, Rodriguez Durand
has been considered first and foremost a military leader.
Capture seen as hard blow, but not a knockout
Experts on the Maoist rebellion said the capture was another hard blow
the guerrilla movement, known in Spanish as Sendero Luminoso, but it did
not mean the death of the organization.
Ramirez Durand's capture "would have a great impact on Sendero but not
like that of Abimael. It would not be the end of Sendero," said Carlos Tapia,
who has studied the Shining Path since its inception and authored a book
about the rebel movement.
"It is much easier to replace Feliciano in a new terrorist leadership than
was to replace Abimael Guzman," Tapia said hours before the capture.
Before Guzman's arrest in 1992, the rebel movement had the Peruvian
government on the ropes, killing village authorities, ambushing army patrols
and unleashing deadly waves of car-bomb attacks in Lima.
The Shining Path had as many as 10,000 armed fighters in the early 1990s,
but is now believed to have fewer than 1,000 combatants.
More than 30,000 people, including soldiers, rebels and noncombatants,
have died in political violence in Peru since the Shining Path took up arms in
But in recent years the death toll has dropped off to a few hundred a year
the rebels withdrew into unpopulated areas of the jungle hundreds of miles
east and north of Lima.