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Skanska workers freed by rebels in Peru

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Skanska workers freed by rebels in Peru
09:05 CEST+02:00
Peruvian rebels released 36 construction workers on Saturday, 28 of whom were employed by Swedish construction firm Skanska, bringing an end to a five day hostage drama.

Peruvian president Ollanta Humala insisted that no ransom had been paid.

The workers, kidnapped on Monday, had walked "seven hours from the mountains to reach our village," Susano Guillen, lieutenant governor of a small town in the southeastern Cusco region, told RPP radio.

The group, construction workers with the Swedish company Skanska and Peru's Construcciones Modulares, arrived on foot after being released around 4am, Guillen said.

Local authorities would not confirm whether a $10 million ransom demand from the Shining Path guerrillas had been paid but President Humala indicated that no money had changed hands.

The release took place "without any type of concessions being made to the kidnappers," Humala, speaking by telephone from the Summit of the Americas in

the Colombian resort city of Cartagena, told RPP.

Of the freed workers, 28 were with Skanska and eight Construcciones Modulares. The companies provide services to the international consortium that operates the Camisea gas fields, the largest in Peru.

During a search and rescue effort this week, a police captain was fatally shot in the chest when rebels fired on a military helicopter involved in the operation, in an attack that also wounded a police officer and a civilian.

Soldiers and police had stepped up the rescue effort on Friday by conducting joint patrols in the mountainous area, which has dense vegetation.

Justice Minister Juan Jimenez told Canal N television Peruvian police and soldiers were "quietly" coordinating to free the hostages, stating that "a democratic state like Peru does not negotiate with terrorist criminals."

The government had ordered a state of emergency in the area for 60 days, with the suspension of some individual rights, such as the inviolability of homes and the right of assembly.

The leftist Shining Path was largely dismantled when its leaders were captured in the mid-1990s, but not before a conflict that left 70,000 people dead, according to Peru's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

However, remnants of the guerrilla group still operate in remote regions of the country.

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