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Peru's Shining Path frees kidnapped workers

Peruvian rebels have freed 36 construction workers from a Swedish company and a Peruvian firm who had been held captive for five days, a local government official has said.

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

Details on how the construction workers managed to escape was still not available.

Local officials have said the workers were kidnapped in the hamlet of Kepashiato, near the country's main natural gas field in the Amazon jungle.

Those who were abducted were working as contractors on gas industry projects.

"The government doesn't negotiate with terrorists,'' Juan Jimenez, Peru's justice minister, said on Thursday in an interview with Panamericana Television.

Earlier, the defense ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that 1,500 soldiers and police were involved in the search and rescue operation. 

The abducted Peruvian workers, who began building a new gas treatment plant last year, were rounded up about on Monday from their hotels, Rosalio Sanchez, Kepashiato's mayor, said.

The mayor said the rebels lingered for three hours, buying groceries and summoning about 20 residents to an assembly where they condemned the government and the natural gas industry.

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