Armed Group kidnaps 60 Techint Workers

A group of 60 workers hired by Argentine construction company Techint to build the Camisea natural gas pipeline in southeastern Peru were kidnapped Monday morning by a group of some 60 "armed criminals," Peru's ministry of defense said in a statement.

The group, which includes eight foreigners, were at the Toccate construction camp in La Mar province. Three policemen were also kidnapped. According to a police report quoted in local press, the leftist Shining Path terrorist organization is behind the attack, led by a man known only as "Comrade Mio". The kidnappers are reportedly demanding a US$1mn ransom, medicine and communications equipment.

Apart from seizing the workers, they also took 2,700 charges of dynamite, fuses and detonators. "The government has taken the necessary measures to free the kidnapped people, preserving their physical integrity and their lives," the statement said, adding that the army has been dispatched to the area.

However, the terrorists said they would begin to kill the hostages if a rescue attempt is launched. Techint leads the TGP pipeline consortium, which is building the 430-mile (720km) pipeline from the Camisea natural gas fields in the Amazon to the Pacific coast. The pipeline is about 50% complete and is due to be completed by mid-2004. The TGP consortium is also comprised of Argentina's Pluspetrol, US-based Hunt Oil, Peru's Grana y Montero, Algeria's Sonatrach, South Korea's SK Group and Belgium's Tractebel. The consortium has been the target of attacks by disgruntled workers in the past, and last October the workers went on strike demanding better salaries and working conditions.

However, police sources have ruled out the involvement of workers in the kidnapping. During the 1980s, the Shining Path, known in Spanish as the Sendero Luminoso, waged an armed struggle against the Peruvian state. Some 30,000 Peruvians were killed in the conflict. Although the Shining Path has been largely defeated, some guerrillas are still active in parts of the Amazon jungle and in Ayacucho department where the attack took place. Techint officials were meeting in Ayacucho on Tuesday morning and were not available for comment when contacted by BNamericas.

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