November 18, 2008 / 7:57 PM / in 10 years

Peru steps up APEC security on fears about rebels

LIMA, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Peruvian police are taking extra precautions to prevent suspected holdouts of the left-wing Shining Path insurgency from attacking this week in Lima, where 21 heads of state will attend an APEC summit.

The group led a bloody rebellion from 1980 until the early 1990s, when it largely collapsed after its Maoist leader, Abimael Guzman, was captured.

But since October, it has been blamed for killing at least 20 soldiers and police officers in three ambushes carried out to defend mountainous coca-growing regions in the world’s No. 2 cocaine producer. Dozens of soldiers have been wounded.

More than 39,000 police will patrol Lima’s streets during the summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, helicopters will escort presidential convoys, and leaders will meet in the confines of Peru’s fortified Defense Ministry.

"The general command for APEC has been preparing for more than a year for all kinds of scenarios in terms of prevention and response — terrorism, organized crime, strikes against the republic," Julio Vergara, the police chief in charge of APEC security, told Reuters on Tuesday.

APEC visitors include U.S. President George W. Bush. In 2002, days before his last Peru visit, the Shining Path blew up a car bomb near the U.S. Embassy in Lima, killing 10 people.

At its height, the Shining Path routinely robbed dynamite from Peru’s numerous mines and blew up electrical generators, transmission lines and buildings.

Last month, 30 members of the group revived the tactic, stealing dynamite from a mining camp of U.S.-based metals company Doe Run, prompting the government to tell mining companies to take better care guarding their explosives.

In one ambush in October, the group placed explosives on a dirt road and then set them off with detonator cord as a convoy of military trucks drove by.

Conflict has increased since August, when President Alan Garcia, whose approval rating has sunk to about 20 percent, started sending soldiers to coca regions of the Andes in an effort to destroy what is left of the Shining Path, which security officials say includes about 300 guerrillas.

On Monday, police arrested a man in Lima with 36 grenades but they did not link him to the rebel group.

Before the recent wave of attacks, the Shining Path had killed about three dozen police, soldiers and anti-narcotics workers since Garcia began his term two years ago. (Reporting by Terry Wade and Diego Ore; Editing by Dana Ford and Bill Trott)



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