Patterns of Global Terrorism 1997 - Peru

The first four months of 1997 were marred by the hostage situation at the Japanese Ambassador's residence in Lima. Fourteen terrorists from the MRTA, including the group's top operational leader, Nestor Cerpa Cartolini, seized the residence on 17 December 1996, taking hundreds of hostages, including foreign ambassadors, Peruvian cabinet ministers and security chiefs, and eight US officials. At the beginning of the year, the terrorists still held 81 hostages, most of whom were prominent Peruvian or Japanese citizens.

In February, Peruvian officials and MRTA leaders initiated talks to resolve the crisis, but the terrorists' insistence that the Peruvian Government release imprisoned MRTA members blocked the way to a peaceful outcome. On 22 April, after weeks of stalled talks and a MRTA refusal to allow medical personnel to visit the hostages, Peruvian military forces stormed the residence and successfully rescued all but one of the 72 remaining hostages. Two Peruvian soldiers and all 14 of the MRTA terrorists died in the assault.

The MRTA's activity dropped off dramatically after the rescue operation, but its larger and more violent counterpart, Sendero Luminoso, remained active in Lima and in some parts of the countryside. Sendero still has not recovered from the arrest of its founder, Abimael Guzman, in 1992, however, and its recent attacks have been less ambitious than those it mounted in the early 1990s. In August, Sendero kidnapped 30 employees of a French oil company in Junin Department and released them after two days in exchange for food, clothing, and other supplies. The group also car-bombed a police station in Lima in May, injuring eight policemen and more than a dozen civilians; later in the year, it set off several smaller bombs in Lima, which caused no injuries. Peruvian authorities continue to pursue aggressively members of both of the country's terrorist groups and have tightened security measures in Lima substantially since the hostage crisis.


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