Peru frees children held by Shining Path rebels
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Authorities in Peru rescued 39 people, including 26 children, whom Maoist Shining Path rebels were raising in bondage as future rebel troops, the government said Monday.
The so-called VRAEM area of largely untouched jungle -- connecting Huancayo, Ayacucho, Apurimac and Cusco -- serves as a home base for the remnant forces of the insurgency. The government accuses them of working with drug traffickers to raise money.
Deputy Defence Minister Ivan Vega told Canal N television the children were aged one to 14.
The Shining Path has a camp in the area where it holds women who are raped to produce offspring as future troops, children and some elderly, according to Vega.
He called them "Shining Path troop-making camps" led by the group's self-proclaimed leader Jose Quispe Palomino.
"The women are made pregnant so that their babies will fill Shining Path's ranks," Vega explained.
"The children are trained to care for coca growing until they are 12 to 14 when they go into Shining Path active duty."
The elderly -- many of whom were kidnapped as young people -- are forced to grow subsistence food and coca leaves from which cocaine can be made, he added.
Those rescued were being cared for at the Mazamari military base in Junin. The minors then will be turned over to the Ministry of Women.
The Shining Path unleashed most of Peru's civil strife, blamed for 69,000 deaths between 1980 and 2000, a national truth commission found.