LIMA – Army special forces troops recovered the bodies of three soldiers killed by guerrillas last week in central Peru’s Andean region.
No combat occurred during the recovery operation Saturday and the bodies were taken to the morgue in the city of Huancayo, where autopsies were performed, Defense Minister Rafael Rey told the official Andina news agency.
The bodies were received with full military honors Sunday in Lima.
Two attacks were staged last week against army troops in the strife-torn Valley of the Apurimac and Ene rivers, known as the VRAE region, where the so-called “remnants” of the Shining Path guerrilla group operate in an alliance with drug traffickers.
Guerrillas ambushed an army patrol Tuesday near Sinaijocha, a town in Junin province, located some 350 kilometers (217 miles) from Lima, wounding three soldiers.
A helicopter sent to rescue the wounded soldiers was shot down the next day, killing the pilot and co-pilot, and wounding five other people aboard the aircraft.
Guerrillas had not attacked a military helicopter in Acobamba, which is in the VRAE region, since October 1999.
The helicopter was only a few meters in the air when it was hit by gunfire and “nosed into the ground, killing the pilots,” the defense minister said.
Prime Minister Javier Velasquez Quesquen, meanwhile, said the government’s goal was to destroy the guerrillas and drug traffickers operating in Peru’s interior.
“It would be easy for the government to turn its face and wash its hands of it, but we have decided to pursue, with responsibility, the final liquidation of the remnants of terrorism and drug trafficking,” the prime minister said.
The government plans to pursue a flexible medium- and long-term strategy, adapting it to conditions in the VRAE, Velasquez said.