Peruvian security forces have rescued at least seven children and eight adults held by the Maoist "Shining Path" rebels. The children - forced to take up arms upon reaching maturity - were malnourished.
A special unit of Peruvian security forces - comprising military and police officers - rescued seven children and eight adults from the Maoist "Shining Path" rebels, reported Joseph Baella, director of Peru's Division against Terrorism, on Saturday.
Baella said the children, whose ages ranged from four to 14, were malnourished and had skin diseases, although they were being treated by authorities following the rescue operation.
According to Peruvian Deputy Defense Minister Ivan Vega, the mission took place without shots being fired.
On Monday, Vega announced that 26 children and 13 women had been rescued in a separate operation, bringing the week's total of rescued captives to 54.
The women are raped under rebel captivity to produce the Maoist group's future guerillas, Vega told Canal N television earlier this week.
"The women are made pregnant so that their babies will fill Shining Path's ranks," Vega said.
The deputy defense minister added that the children are trained to care for coca fields used to produce cocaine.
"The children are trained to care for coca growing until they are 12 to 14, which is when they go into Shining Path active duty," Vega explained.
Beginning in the early 1980s, the rebel group led a two-decade insurgency against successive Peruvian governments, resulting in the deaths of around 69,000 people, according to Peru's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
"Shining Path" rebels occupy areas of Peru's untouched jungle in the VRAEM region, known as the country's cocaine production hub.
ls/gsw (AFP, AP, Reuters)