April 3, 1983 | Massacre of peasants in Peru

On this day in 1983, the Sendero massacred 69 peasants in the village of Lucanamarca in Peru with axes, machetes and guns.

‘Terror’ is at the root of the word ‘terrorism’: is there anything more terrifying than being hacked to death by a machete?

LUCANAMARCA, PERU — You have to give some violent extremist groups some credit for coming up with neat names. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealm for instance with that cool tiger logo.

Indian government extends ban on LTTE for five years
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealm have a cool tiger logo

Japanese Red Army – ooh!! An army! And of course the Moro Islamic Liberation Fighters or MILF…er, perhaps THAT name should be reconsidered (if you have to ask what a MILF is…no, I won’t go there).

And then we have the Sendero Luminoso in Peru – Shining Path in English. The questions come fast and furious. What ‘path’ are they on? Where does it lead? Is it a tortuous path or an easy one? And what are they ‘shining’ on? A better life? A hidden truth? Inquiring minds want to know!

According to the Website of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) here is what the Sendero is all about (I know it may strike you as odd that I am citing a science site to talk about terrorism but this one is quite good):

Former university professor Abimael Guzman formed the Shining Path in Peru in the late 1960s; his teachings created the foundation of the group’s militant Maoist doctrine. In the 1980s, it became one of the most ruthless terrorist groups in the Western Hemisphere. The Peruvian government made dramatic gains against it in the 1990s, capturing Guzman in 1992 and killing a large number of militants. The organisation’s stated goal is to destroy existing Peruvian institutions and replace them with a communist peasant revolutionary regime.

As noted above, the Sendero became one of the more ruthless terrorist groups in Peru in the 1980s. In fact, on this day in 1983 it massacred 69 peasants in the village of Lucanamarca. The killings began early in the morning when some 60 terrorists captured and then killed an initial group of 29 men, women and children with axes, machetes and guns.

1983 Lucanamarca massacre

In response to many Sendero attacks in Peru the group quickly lost any sympathy among the wider population, with its often brutal enforcement of its rules and disrespect for indigenous culture, and anti-Sendero patrols known as rondas began to form. In March 1983, some Lucanamarca residents who had formed such a patrol captured a Seendero commander, took him to the main square, and proceeded to stone, hack and shoot him.

The April 3 attack was an act of retribution: men were separated from women and children, made to kneel down in front of the church, and killed. According to one witness: “They made us get down, saying ‘you wretches wanted to escape, now you’ve got to be punished.'”

Killing peasants to create a ‘communist peasant revolutionary regime’?? Does this make any sense? Alas, terrorism seldom does.

What happened on this day in the past?

Terrorism has been around for a long time. Check out my blog Today in Terrorism and have a look at what happened on this day in the past and what it means for today.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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