Suspected guerrillas have killed 13 Peruvian soldiers in ambushes on two patrols in a jungle region known for coca production and lingering rebel activity, the government said Saturday.
Four more were wounded and two are still missing from Thursday's attacks in the Apurimac-Ene River Valley of southeastern Peru, according to the military.
The guerrillas apparently first attacked one of the patrols with explosives, killing one and wounding three, and then tracked and ambushed the other group.
"Twelve (from the second patrol) have been found dead in a ravine, and some of their weapons have been taken — surely by the Shining Path," Defense Minister Antero Flores-Araoz told reporters late Saturday.
The Maoist Shining Path once boasted 10,000 fighters and rocked the capital with nearly daily car bombings before fading after the capture of its founder in 1992. Officials say the guerrillas number about 500 today and survive through drug trafficking.
The attacks in Sanabamba, 200 miles southeast of the capital, Lima, are the deadliest since October, when 13 soldiers and two civilians were ambushed and killed while transporting dynamite in Huancavelica.
President Alan Garcia's chief Cabinet minister called the attacks an act of desperation in response to the military presence in the area.
"They continue to kill soldiers and police, but this will not defeat the army, the police or much less our democracy," Yehude Simon said.