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'Rebel' bodies to have DNA tests

The bodies of two men killed by security forces in Peru have been flown to the capital Lima for DNA tests that authorities believe will show they are two of the Shining Path rebels' four leaders as officials claimed a major blow to the cocaine-funded insurgency.

President Ollanta Humala has tentatively identified one of them as "Comrade Gabriel", or Marco Antonio Quispe Palomino, the youngest of three brothers from the Quispe Palomino clan that commands an estimated 500 fighters. The other is said to be "Comrade Alipio" or Alejandro Borda Casafranca, the group's military chief.

Officials said they did not know the identity of a third guerrilla also killed on Sunday night in explosions and gunfire in the Apurimac and Ene river valley of south-eastern Peru, a region of dense jungles, rugged hills and few roads that has long been a redoubt of the Quispe Palomino gang.

The armed forces chief, Admiral Jose Cueto, said that authorities had little doubt that the DNA tests would confirm they got their targets.

"Alipio for certain. Still to be determined is Gabriel, but it is nearly certain that it is him as well," he said.

Interior minister Wilfredo Pedraza and defence minister Pedro Cateriano, who flew back with the three bodies to Lima, told reporters at the airport that the deaths were the culmination of a joint police-military operation begun in late July called "Chameleon".

In announcing the deaths earlier, Mr Humala credited a joint command that had combined police investigators and elite soldiers.

A Shining Path expert in the region, Pedro Yaranga, said security forces had collaborators who had infiltrated the band, leading them to the rebel chiefs. He said they attacked the guerrillas with grenades when they were in a jungle hut. He said the hut caught fire and the rebels were apparently burned beyond recognition.

"They were after Alipio. The surprise is that Gabrial was in the same place," said Mr Yaranga. Mr Cateriano said the three died "in explosions and then in a fire".

The Quispe Palomino band is the last remnant of the Shining Path insurgency that devastated Peru from 1980 to 2000. Since 2008, its fighters have killed about 100 Peruvian soldiers in the river valley as it has become the world's biggest coca-producing region.

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