Peruvian authorities blame the deadly violence of a dissident faction of the Maoist rebel group Shining Path.
The number of deaths of an attack in a mountainous and remote region of Peru has risen to 16, authorities said Tuesday, as the country’s interim president promised there would be “no impunity” for those responsible for the killings.
Peruvian authorities have blamed the deadly violence of a dissident faction of Shining Path, a Maoist movement that fought the government in the 1980s and 1990s.
“We are doing everything we can to deploy the police and the army so that we can effectively fight this plague,” interim President Francisco Sagasti told reporters.
“We know this is rugged terrain with many ravines that drug terrorists know very well.”
The villagers, including at least two children, died in San Miguel del Ene, in a coca-growing valley, where members of the Sendera Luminosa group operate.
According to authorities, the mountainous region of the Apurimac, Ene y Mantaro River Valley (VRAEM) is where 75% of cocaine is produced in the South American country. Police accuse Shining Path of acting as a “bodyguard” for drug traffickers.
The attack came less than two weeks before Peruvians were ready to go to the polls in a second presidential runoff between left-wing leader Pedro Castillo and right-wing candidate Keiko Fujimori, the former president’s daughter. Alberto Fujimori.
Al Jazeera’s Mariana Sanchez, an informant from Lima, said many were not surprised by the attack, as similar acts of violence were perpetrated before the last election. “Analysts say they are meant to scare voters into supporting left-leaning candidates,” Sanchez said.
Alerted to the crime by the neighbors in the early hours of Monday, the police found the bodies – some of them burned – in two bars on the banks of a small river.
Sagasti has ordered police and soldiers in the area, and a specialized “terrorism” unit has been tasked with investigating the killings.
“We defeated them in other parts of the country many years ago, but (the Shining Way) continues in one place and we hope to eradicate terrorism soon with decisive action by the armed forces,” Sagasti said.
Both Castillo and Fujimori condemned the attack, as did the Organization of American States (AOS), which said it rejected “any kind of intimidation against citizens.”
“As part of the ongoing electoral process, we call on all actors to act responsibly, avoiding hate speech that increases tensions,” the United Nations office in Lima also said on Monday.