Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Peru to receive Russian Mi-35 helicopters to fight rebels

Peru will receive two Russian-made Mi-35 attack helicopters next month to fight drug traffickers and Shining Path guerrillas, Air Force chief Carlos Samame said Sunday.

Samame told state news agency Andina that the helicopters "are intended to bolster our fight in the Apurimac River Valley" in southeastern Peru.

Last year, the Peruvian government bought six Mi-17 transport helicopters and two Mi-35s for military operations in the country's major cocoa-producing valleys.

Samame said the Mi-35s are equipped with artillery that has great fire power and will become a "cornerstone" in the government's fight against the Maoist-inspired Shining Path, a group that was largely crushed by the mid-1990s but remains active in the jungles of southeastern Peru.

He predicted the helicopters would help tip the balance in favor of the armed forces as they are a key tool in the difficult valley terrain filled with dense jungle and mountains.

The latest shipment is part of a larger order whose total figures have not yet been confirmed.
The Peruvian armed forces have lost at least two helicopters in combat over the past two years.

A brutal guerrilla war launched by the Shining Path in 1980 resulted in the deaths of some 70,000 people, according to Peru's independent Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

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