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Mass grave uncovered in Peru

  • Story Highlights
  • Mass grave discovered of peasants massacred by military forces in the 1980s
  • The 60 bodies, including 15 children, were found at site in the Andes
  • Massacre part of govt. war with Shining Path's two-decade insurgency
  • Maoist group's insurgency killed thousands and spawned a brutal govt. crackdown
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From Maria Elena Belaunde
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AYACUCHO, Peru (CNN) -- Forensic teams have exhumed 60 bodies from what is thought to be the largest mass grave from the Peruvian government's bloody war against Maoist insurgents.

Several children were among about 140 peasants massacred by the military in the Andes Mountains of southern Peru in 1984. Fifteen of 60 bodies recovered so far were those of children.

Excavators are comparing DNA extracted from the remains with living relatives who believe they lost loved ones in the incident.

The burial site in Putis is believed to be the largest mass grave related to the Peruvian military's fight against the Shining Path, a Maoist insurgency that fought in the 1980s and '90s to replace Peru's government with a revolutionary peasant regime.

The insurgency killed thousands and spawned a brutal government crackdown that came with numerous human rights abuses.

The violence subsided after the government captured the movement's founder in 1992, arrested other leaders in 1995 and implemented an amnesty program for former rebels -- all of which triggered mass defections from the Shining Path.

In the Putis massacre, witnesses have told a national truth and reconciliation commission that the Peruvian military directed about 140 peasants to a settlement perched about 11,480 feet (3,500 meters) above sea level. The military claimed it wanted to protect them from the Shining Path, witnesses said, but soldiers killed the peasants instead and then stole their cattle.

Gonzalo Fernandez Condoray was a boy when the massacre occurred.

"My father used to take me to another place when it was dangerous here," he said. "I was in the jungle while our relatives stayed here."

His grandmother's body was in the mass grave, he said, along with two uncles.

Dozens of peasants have traveled long distances to submit DNA samples. Yet researchers fear that, in some cases, entire families were killed, which would make identifying some victims difficult.

Jose Pablo Baraybar, a forensic anthropologist, pledged to do all that he can to identify people in the mass grave.

"This is going to be a bone-by-bone analysis," he said.

Prosecutor Cristina Olazabal, meanwhile, says she plan to try to identify soldiers who carried out the massacre.

She is waiting for defense records that could pinpoint which soldiers were in the area when the massacre happened, she said. Once that information arrives, she said, prosecutors plan to interview the soldiers.

All About PeruAlberto Fujimori

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