Latin America & Caribbean

Peruvian police capture 'Shining Path boss' Walter Diaz

Map of Peru
Walter Diaz was captured in Huanuco, on the shores of the river Huallaga

Police in Peru say they have captured a man they suspect of leading the Shining Path rebel group.

They said Walter Diaz Vega had been reorganising the guerrillas after their previous leader, known as Comrade Artemio, was arrested last month.

Mr Diaz was arrested in northern Peru.

The Shining Path, a Maoist rebel group, posed a major challenge to the Peruvian state in the 1980s and early 90s but has since dwindled to a small gang involved in drug trafficking.

Police chief Gen Raul Salazar said Mr Diaz "was in charge of organising an armed column to kill the informants who had infiltrated the group to capture Artemio".

Comrade Artemio was found badly wounded after a clash with troops in a remote jungle region on 12 February.

Peruvian President Ollanta Humala said Artemio's capture marked the defeat of the Shining Path in the Alto Huallaga valley, a rebel hot spot and a centre of cocaine production.

Dwindling force

Police say Mr Diaz took over control of the remaining rebels after Artemio's arrest.

The group had already been seriously weakened before his capture.

Last December, the then-leader admitted to reporters that the Shining Path had been defeated.

But small gangs of rebels have fought on in the Alto Huallaga and Ene-Apurimac valleys, where they have taken control of much of the cocaine trade.

Comrade Artemio is currently being held at a naval base awaiting trial on charges of terrorism and drug trafficking.

Police said Mr Diaz would be taken to the capital, Lima, where he would be charged.

An estimated 70,000 Peruvians died in the conflict between the Shining Path and government forces.

Inspired by Maoism, the rebels tried to lead a "People's War" to overthrow what they called "bourgeois democracy" and establish a Communist state.

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