YANAMAYO, Peru (Reuters) -- In a peaceful end to a three-day siege at
a jail in Peru's Andes, Maoist Shining Path rebel inmates released 24 police
hostages Tuesday without winning any of their demands, the government
Armed with knives and iron bars, about 50 rebels overpowered police
guards in a riot late Sunday, demanding authorities recognize them as
prisoners of war and demolish a harsh navy base jail near Lima where rebel
leaders are held.
"The uprising has been put down," Fujimori told reporters at Government
Palace in Lima. "Our firmness with terrorists is well known. This has been
another failed effort."
The siege gave President Alberto Fujimori, an unflinching opponent of the
guerrillas, his stiffest test from rebels since 1997 when he ordered an attack
that rescued 72 VIP captives at the Japanese ambassador's home and killed
all 14 guerrillas.
Fujimori, who runs for a third five-year term in April, is the clear voter
favorite mainly due to his victories against guerrillas. The successful
conclusion to the siege at this frigid prison in Yanamayo was likely to boost
On Sunday Shining Path rebels killed a comrade who had wanted to end the
hostage-taking that began after some rebels refused to return to their cells,
according to the government.
But Fujimori denied military sources' accounts reported throughout Peruvian
media that a policeman died in an initial clash. Seven policemen were
injured, he said.
At the Yanamayo prison, which holds more than 300 inmates from the
Shining Path and the smaller Cuban-inspired Tupac Amaru Revolutionary
Movement (MRTA), rebels hung a placard at one cell window announcing
that hostages were no longer being held.
Some of the 300 troops, who had surrounded the prison for a possible
rescue bid, began to withdraw from the compound, which lies 12,700 feet
above sea level on wind-swept wasteland.
Their retreat came after the military and a district attorney persuaded
rebels to drop their demands.
"At no time do we negotiate with terrorists," Fujimori said.
For two decades Shining Path has inspired fear in this Andean nation's
population of 25 million and earned an international reputation for its
members' violence and commitment.
Wars to impose a communist state by Shining Path and the MRTA have
cost 30,000 lives since 1980.
But in recent years Fujimori's strategy has drastically cut the threat
rebels, who almost brought the state to its knees in the early 1990s.
"This (siege) is the best propaganda for Fujimori -- I think it will help
win an outright first round (election) victory," said Jhonny Morales, a
messenger at a law firm.
Copyright 2000 Reuters.