Maoist Rebels Black Out Lima, Explode Car Bomb
LIMA, Peru (AP) _ Police arrested nearly 1,400 people in sweeps through slums in Lima on Thursday after rebels blacked out the capital the night before and detonated a car bomb that injured a policeman and three women, authorities said.
Police said the car bomb extloded outside the office of the Lima prefect, who is in charge of maintaining public order.
They said insurgents also exploded dynamite outside a branch of the Banco Popular in the working-class neighborhood of Rimac Wednesday night, shattering the building’s windows. The rebels also made a similar attack on an office of the governing Aprista Party in the shantytown of Villa El Salvador.
A maintenance worker found a nine-pound bomb in a cardboard box on the fourth floor of the Municipal Palace shortly before the blackout Wednesday night and called police to deactivate it.
The blackout and bombings were the first in Lima since President Alan Garcia took office July 28 and pledged to seek negotiations with rebels to end political violence that has claimed at least 5,000 lives since 1980.
Maj. Luis Cuba Quintana, spokesman for the Civil Guard, Peru’s national police force, blamed the attacks on the Maoist-inspired Shining Path, the largest of three rebel groups operating in this Andean nation.
A spokesman for the state power company Electroperu said rebels dynamited a tower carrying power lines 30 miles east of Lima, plunging the capital and its port of El Callao into darkness for more than an hour. Some neighborhoods remained without electricity at noon Thursday.
Residents of the shantytown Ciudad de Dios, or City of God, on the southeastern outskirts of the capital told police they saw torches form the shape of a huge hammer and sickle on a nearby hillside during the blackout.
The hammer and sickle is the symbol of the Shining Path, which has been fighting since 1980 to overthrow Peru’s democratically elected governments.
Electroperu said the power failure affected an area of the coast stretching from the fishing port of Chimbote 250 miles north of Lima to Ica, in the desert 185 miles south of the capital. It said workers were searching for sabotage in other points of the power grid.
Quintana said police picked up 1,390 people in the sweeps through slums, and were questioning the detainees. He said the sweep was an attempt to catch terrorists responsible for the attacks and block further attempts. Most detainees have been released within a few hours in previous sweepps.
Lima has been blacked out 14 times since 1982, and the Shining Path has been blamed in most cases. Generally, rebels have dynamited power towers in the Andes hundreds of miles southeast of Lima.
The last total blackout of the city of 6 million people was June 7, when guerrillas also exploded car bombs and burned nine major department stores and supermarkets.
Also Thursday, the government extended for 60 days a state of emergency in 25 provinces in the Andes where the guerrilla war has been most intense. The state of emergency was first imposed in March 1981.
The government said the extention was necessary because ″terrorist attacks continue against lives and private and public property″ in the 25 provinces.