The leader and founder of Peru’s Shining Path rebel group, Abimael Guzmán, has died at the age of 86.
A former philosophy professor, he had been serving a life sentence for terrorism and treason since 1992.
In July he suffered health problems and was transferred from a maximum security prison to a hospital.
Almost 70,000 people died or disappeared in more than a decade of conflict between the Maoist guerrilla group and the Peruvian state.
Guzmán’s arrest hit the group hard, but a few of its members are still active in the coca-producing region.
Abimael Guzmán was born on Peru’s southern coast near the town of Mollendo in December 1934 to a wealthy merchant who raised him after Guzmán’s mother died.
The future rebel leader had a privileged upbringing. He attended a private Catholic secondary school and later the university in Arequipa, where one of his dissertations was on German philosopher Immanuel Kant.
While at university he became interested in Marxism. By 1962 he had earned a place as professor of philosophy at San Cristóbal of Huamanga National University in the central city of Ayacucho.
During a trip to China in 1965 Guzmán was inspired by Communist leader Mao Zedong and upon his return to Peru he encouraged like-minded academics to join him at the university in Ayacucho.
In 1969, he and 11 others founded the Shining Path – Sendero Luminoso in Spanish. The name was chosen as a nod to Peruvian communist José Carlos Mariátegui who said that “Marxism-Leninism is the shining path of the future”.
Inspired by Maoism, the guerrilla group tried to lead a “people’s war” to overthrow Peru’s “bourgeois democracy” and establish a communist state.
An offshoot of the Communist Party of Peru, the group did not engage in armed struggle at first.