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Rebel leader captured after battle

Peruvian troops have captured the wounded leader of a remnant of the once-powerful Shining Path rebel group, effectively dismantling a well-armed outlaw band that lived off the cocaine trade, President Ollanta Humala said.

Mr Humala, a former army lieutenant colonel, flew to the remote coca-growing Upper Huallaga Valley of central Peru to congratulate the police and soldiers who had snared the 50-year-old rebel, Comrade Artemio, and two of his confederates.

Artemio, whose given name is Florindo "Jose" Flores, was later flown to Lima where doctors at a police hospital were removing two bullets from his stomach, said Raul Sanchez, spokesman for the chief prosecutor's office. Artemio also had shrapnel wounds in both hands, he said.

From a distance, journalists saw Artemio raise his right arm and shout something indiscernible as he was wheeled on a trolley from the plane after arriving in Lima.

"Mission accomplished," Mr Humala told state TV earlier from the police counter-narcotics base where Artemio was taken.

He said that with the capture of Artemio and several of his top lieutenants in recent weeks the Upper Huallaga had been pacified, making agribusiness, cattle ranching and tourism now possible.

Analysts consider Artemio's capture a crippling blow to a roughly 150-strong band that represented about half of what remains of the Shining Path, which killed thousands during the 1980s and 1990s.

He was apprehended three days ago after being wounded under circumstances neither Mr Humala nor other officials explained.

Defence minister Alberto Otarola said that Artemio was wounded in combat with government forces early Thursday in the village of Puerto Pizana. But local journalists have reported that at least one of his own men may have turned on him.

The other remaining Shining Path faction, also involved in the drug trade, is centred further south in the valley of the Apurimac and Ene rivers. Mr Humala said security forces would now focus efforts on fighting that group, which was blamed for an attack on a remote police station last Monday in which two police officers were wounded.


From Belfast Telegraph