A shining reminder of terrorism

I’m sure you’ve had times where you remark “do you remember…?”.  It could be about someone you went to high school with.  Or that ice cream place your parents would always stop at on the way back from the cottage.  Or maybe a song that was always on the radio way back when.  Yep, these were “blasts from the past”.

Here’s another golden oldie – welcome to Shining Path (or as it is known in Spanish Sendero Luminoso).

This group of terrorists/freedom fighters (remember President Reagan’s famous line about one man’s terrorist being another man’s freedom fighter?) was active in Peru in the 1980s and early 1990s and engaged in a number of assassinations and kidnappings.  Its ideology was Maoist-socialist-communist and it sought to create a dictatorship of the proletariat to overturn Peru’s historical social and economic disparities.

Things went badly for Shining Path beginning with the capture of its leader, Abimael Guzman, in 1992.  The group still carried out the odd action now and then, but it seemed that the loss of its jefe had effectively neutralised the organisation.  The “decapitation” theory of ending terrorism (no, not IS’s use of decapitation!) seemed to bear fruit.

I know I had not given the Path much thought until yesterday, when I came across an article in the Toronto Star (see it here) in which it was reported that the Peruvian government rescued 54 people that the group was holding hostage in a remote jungle area.  I had to read the headline twice to make sure I was reading it correctly. Shining Path was back in the kidnapping business??

It turns out that they had never really abandoned the “path” (pun intended) of terrorism.  Following the loss of Guzman, the group has engaged in several bombings, attacks on soldiers and hostage takings.  So much for the decapitation theory (I had first written on this back in May (Heads I win).

The point is that we cannot assume that terrorism will come to a grinding halt just because we have a series of successes against a particular group.  This was brought to the fore not just with the news about Shining Path, but also in Turkey where the government is using the fig leaf of bombing the Islamic State to hit its old enemy – the PKK.  Remember them?  They were supposed to be dead after their leader, Abdullah Ocalan, was captured in 1999.  Well, for yesterday’s terrorists, the Turks sure seem to be concerned about them today.

I understand the need to have victories.  The struggle (not war!) against terrorism  has been going on for a very long time.  It may seem it began on September 11, 2001, but it is much older than that.  And as societies and taxpayers and citizens we are constantly bombarded with news of attacks, and bombs and beheadings.  So, the odd glimmer of light at the end of this interminable tunnel comes as a relief.  So, we should mark occasional milestones in this campaign.  But we have to remain realistic.

After all, the path will be a winding one.

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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