The armed group that kidnapped gas company employees in a jungle area of southeastern Peru demanded $10 million for their release, Correo newspaper said Tuesday, posting an image of the purported handwritten ransom note on its Web page.
The captors, suspected of being a Shining Path guerrilla unit, also demanded explosives.
Police and Interior Ministry sources contacted by Efe said they were unable to confirm the newspaper’s story. The top elected official in the La Convencion district, however, told reporters the captors had the ransom note delivered by a doctor and a nurse.
Fedia Castro also denied reports that the armed group had initially seized 30 workers and subsequently released all but seven of them.
“There is no one who was freed. It’s 40 Peruvians, 40 lives that are in danger and that’s why I make this clarification,” she said.
The abduction took place in the Valley of the Apurimac and Ene rivers, or VRAE, region, where both drug traffickers and the remnants of the Shining Path guerrilla group operate.
The people taken hostage in the town of Kepashiato work for Coga and Skanska, which are contractors on the massive Camisea natural gas project.
The two closest police posts are in Quillabamba, eight hours away by road, and Pichari, a 12-hour journey from Kepashiato.
In Lima, Efe saw a plane carrying Energy and Mines Minister Jorge Merino and some 50 police commandos take off around midday Tuesday bound for Cuzco, the largest city in southeastern Peru.
The Maoist-inspired Shining Path launched its revolt on May 17, 1980, with an attack on Chuschi, a small town in Ayacucho province.
A truth commission appointed by former President Alejandro Toledo blamed the Shining Path for most of the nearly 70,000 deaths the panel ascribed to politically motivated violence during the two decades following the group’s 1980 uprising.
Shining Path founder Abimael Guzman was captured with his top lieutenants on Sept. 12, 1992, an event that marked the “defeat” of the insurgency, but isolated remnants of the group fight on.