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Sendero Luminoso (SL)
Shining Path

Former university professor Abimael Guzman formed SL in Peru in the late 1960s, and his teachings created the foundation of SL's militant Maoist doctrine. In the 1980s, SL became one of the most ruthless terrorist groups in the Western Hemisphere approximately 30,000 persons have died since Shining Path took up arms in 1980. The Peruvian Government made dramatic gains against SL during the 1990s, but reports of a recent SL involvement in narcotrafficking indicate that it may have a new source of funding with which to sustain a resurgence. Its stated goal is to destroy existing Peruvian institutions and replace them with a communist peasant revolutionary regime. It also opposes any influence by foreign governments, as well as by other Latin American guerrilla groups, especially the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA).

In 2002, eight suspected SL members were arrested on suspicion of complicity in the 20 March bombing across the street from the US Embassy that killed 10 persons. They are being held pending charges, which could take up to one year. Lima has been very aggressive in prosecuting terrorist suspects in 2002. According to the Peruvian National Police Intelligence Directorate, 199 suspected terrorists were arrested between January and mid-November. Counterterrorist operations targeted pockets of terrorist activity in the Upper Huallaga River Valley and the Apurimac/Ene River Valley, where SL columns continued to conduct periodic attacks.

Has engaged in particularly brutal forms of terrorism, including the indiscriminate use of bombs. Almost every institution in Peru has been a target of SL violence. Has bombed diplomatic missions of several countries in Peru, including the US Embassy. Carries out bombing campaigns and selective assassinations. Has attacked US businesses since its inception. Involved in cocaine trade.

Peruvian authorities continued operations against the SL in 2002 in the countryside, where the SL conducted periodic raids on villages.

On 26 November, Comrade Artemio, a man believed to be the only active leader of Shining Path guerrillas, offered a truce to Peru's government. The government made no response.

Membership is unknown but estimated to be 400 to 500 armed militants. SL's strength has been vastly diminished by arrests and desertions but appears to be growing again, possibly due to involvement in narcotrafficking.

Rural based, with some terrorist attacks in the capital.

Shining Path is not known to have received external aid.

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