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Report: Hostages held by Shining Path freed after clashes in Peru

By the CNN Wire Staff
April 14, 2012 -- Updated 2240 GMT (0640 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A Maoist guerrilla group in Peru releases 36 hostages it captured this week, state media reports
  • 1,500 government troops had encircled members of the Shining Path in southern Peru
  • Masked attackers kidnapped dozens of workers in a town early Monday
  • Rebels demanded $10 million in ransom for the hostages, plus explosives and weapons

(CNN) -- After battling government forces, a Maoist guerrilla group in Peru has released 36 hostages it captured earlier this week, state media reported Saturday.

Peru's Defense Ministry said that 1,500 government troops had encircled members of the Shining Path in southern Peru, the state-run news agency Andina reported. This action prompted the release of the hostages, who were identified as oil and gas workers.

Masked attackers had kidnapped dozens of workers in the town of Kepashiato early Monday morning, Andina reported earlier. It is not clear if all of the hostages have been released and are now safe.

A police captain was killed and two people were injured during a search operation Thursday, when suspected rebels opened fire on a military helicopter, Peru's government ombudsman said in a statement.

The Maoist guerrillas had demanded $10 million in ransom for the hostages, in addition to explosives and weapons.

But government officials said they would not not negotiate with terrorists, calling the effort to locate and secure the release of the kidnapped workers a top priority.

Some of the hostages were employees of the international construction company Skanska, according to Andina. A company spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment.

The kidnapping comes after authorities' recent announcements that they had significantly dismantled and defeated the rebel group.

At its peak, the Shining Path spread terror in the country through a bombing campaign that targeted buildings and key infrastructure, such as electricity towers. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the Peruvian government fought a campaign that greatly reduced the capacity of the group.

After Peruvian authorities captured a longtime leader of the group in February, President Ollanta Humala said the group was "no longer a threat to the country."

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