- The Washington Times - Friday, December 29, 2006

SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia — Peru’s Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA), which made international headlines with the December 1996 seizure of the Japanese Embassy in Lima, is regrouping in Bolivia and other neighboring countries, according to a Peruvian intelligence reports cited in the local press.

“Surviving MRTA cadres have installed themselves outside the country. Two important cells have established themselves in Bolivia and Chile, countries which have been used as support bases for their legal, political and military objectives,” according to Peru’s largest newspaper El Comercio, which earlier this month cited national police reports.

Warnings of an MRTA reactivation follow a security crackdown in Peru’s jungle regions to counter a resurgence of guerrillas from another rebel group, the Shining Path.

Both groups were highly active in the 1980s and 1990s. While Shining Path was a largely rural-based insurgent movement, MRTA focused primarily on high-profile targets in urban areas.

MRTA leader Nestor Cerpa and 14 comrades were killed when U.S.-trained Peruvian commandos stormed the Japanese Embassy in April 1997 to free 72 hostages, including a number of foreign ambassadors and top government officials who had been held for several months.

The Peruvian government recently asked for the extradition of several MRTA members who are reported to be in Bolivia, where the group has its “main base,” according to the Bolivian newspaper La Razon.

They include Julio Cesar Vasquez, who has arranged joint terrorist training with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and is now thought to be operating in Cochabamba.

MRTA has maintained close ties with radical Indian movements, which have recently gained political influence.

Bolivia Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera was a chief ideologue of the Tupac Katari Guerrilla Army, an MRTA offshoot that carried out a series of terrorist attacks during the 1990s, opposition lawmakers say.

Opposition lawmakers also say that a prominent aid to leftist President Evo Morales has had links with extremist organizations in Peru.

“In the past these groups have operated in Bolivia, so we cannot discard anything. But the information is sensitive and we have to evaluate and investigate it,” said Juan Carlos Saa, chief inspector of Bolivia’s police.

Bolivia’s Interior Minister Alicia Munoz acknowledged being informed about the MRTA presence. “There are accusations and while we don’t have investigations or objective facts we cannot give an opinion,” she said.

Last month, a Bolivian judge ordered the preventive detention of Aida Ochoa, a purported member of MRTA wanted by Peru on terrorism charges. Bolivian authorities say that they have been unable to find her.

Miss Ochoa had been imprisoned in Bolivia for her role the 1996 kidnapping of businessman Samuel Doria Medina, who currently heads the center-right National Unity party. She was released in 2005.

Bolivian intelligence officials who held important security posts at the time of the kidnapping have told The Washington Times that a $2 million ransom collected for Mr. Doria’s release went to finance the Japanese Embassy seizure in Peru.

Another MRTA fugitive who has eluded capture, Wilfredo Camara Caman, has been linked to a series of bank robberies in La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz that netted more than $500,000 in 2005.

According to El Comercio, MRTA has links with Colombia’s FARC through a newly formed Bolivarian Continental Coordinator (CCB), which serves as a support network for terrorist groups throughout South America. CCB is also active in Argentina and Uruguay, the newspaper says.

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