LIMA, Peru (AP) — Peruvian troops have captured the badly wounded leader of a remnant of the once-powerful Shining Path rebel group that lives off the cocaine trade, the defense minister said Sunday.
"His right arm is practically lost and at the moment he's receiving medical attention," Defense Minister Alberto Otarola said in a TV interview, He provided few other details, including when the rebel, Comrade Artemio, was found.
President Ollanta Humala said in a radio interview that he was headed to the Upper Huallaga Valley, the remote coca-growing region where authorities said Artemio was wounded early Thursday.
The 50-year-old Artemio commanded about 150 rebels, and the circumstances of his wounding remain unclear.
Otalora said Friday that it was in combat with government forces in the village of Puerto Pizana, but local journalists have reported that at least one of his own men may have turned on him.
The mayor of the La Polvora district encompassing the village, Nanci Zamora, told The Associated Press that Artemio had been brought before dawn Thursday to an emergency medical technician in the nearby town of Santa Rosa de Mishoyo. Zamora said Artemio had also suffered a chest and leg wound.
She said that after he was treated subordinates took him down the Mishoyo river, a tributary of the Huallaga.
The United States had offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest. Such rewards have proven highly effective in neighboring Colombia in persuading some rebels to turn against their leaders.
Artemio's group represents about half of what remains of the Shining Path, which killed thousands during the 1980s and 1990s. The other, also involved in the drug trade, is centered further south in the valley of the Apurimac and Ene rivers.
Artemio, whose given name is Florindo "Jose" Flores, told visiting journalists in December that his cause was lost and he was seeking a truce with the government.
The self-described Marxist said he wrote Humala twice but received no response. Previous Peruvian governments refused to negotiate a truce, he said, adding that he'd also proposed one in 2003 through the Roman Catholic Church and the International Red Cross.
He said the only way to change the capitalist system was through a socialist government, "but at this moment that is not possible."
Peru is the world's No. 2 producer after Colombia of coca, the basis for cocaine, although the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says it has now surpassed its Andean neighbor in potential cocaine production.
DEA officials say that's because comparatively little coca crop eradication occurs in Peru, where plantations tend to be more mature and higher-yieldling.
Associated Press writer Frank Bajak contributed to this report.