04/09/2012 01:28 pm ET Updated Jun 09, 2012

Peru Shining Path Rebels Kidnap Gas Workers

By Patricia Velez and Teresa Cespedes

LIMA, April 9 (Reuters) - Shining Path rebels took between 10 and 20 workers hostage near Peru's natural gas fields on Monday to thwart an attempt by the army to capture them, sources in the military and a gas pipeline company said.

The kidnapped workers are employees of the Swedish firm Skanska, which services Peru's main natural gas pipeline, the sources said.

"Shining Path rebels took them hostage early this morning in the village of Kepashiato," an official from Peru's gas pipeline company said. "They took them from the hotel where they were sleeping. We don't know where they were taken."

The army had captured one leader of the band of rebels in February and President Ollanta Humala, a former military officer, has vowed to stamp out the rest of the group soon.

The leftist insurgency has not posed a risk to the stability of Peru's government since its Maoist founders were captured in the early 1990s during a civil war. The rebels are deeply involved in the drug trade in the world's top cocaine exporter.

A high-ranking military official said the army was closing in on the group of rebels at the time of the kidnapping.

"They took the hostages to halt our advance," the military official said.

It was the first large kidnapping by the rebels since 2003 but had no impact on gas supplies.

Owners of the pipeline company that carries gas from Peru's Camisea gas fields include Argentina's Pluspetrol, U.S.-based Hunt Oil, South Korea's SK Energy and Suez-Tractebel, among others.

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