President Alan Garcia today sent military and police forces to retake three Peruvian prisons seized by leftist guerrilla prisoners just two days before the scheduled start of a meeting of the world's socialist leaders.
Early, unconfirmed reports put the number of dead at more than 150 and fighting continued into the evening.
The dramatic takeovers by imprisoned members of the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) movement, a pro-Maoist insurgent group that declared war on the state six years ago, marked the climax of weeks of bombing attacks and assassinations that prompted Garcia to impose a state of emergency on the capital in February.
Despite offers of dialogue and pledges of development assistance to highland regions where the guerrillas are strongest, Garcia has failed after nearly 11 months in power to reach a peace with the rebels.
In a televised statement this afternoon, Interior Minister Abel Salinas said that today's simultaneous prison uprisings were meant to embarrass the Garcia administration before the meeting of the Socialist International, scheduled to open on Friday.
In anticipation of the conference, the government has blanketed Lima with military and police personnel and vehicles.
Sendero street attacks today also killed "several policemen," the interior minister reported. Bombs attributed to Sendero exploded at two churches and at the Education Ministry, without injury. A fourth bomb was found and defused in the women's restroom at Lima's Jorge Chavez international airport.
At Lurigancho prison, the country's largest, the rebels reportedly captured two hostages after overpowering guards. At El Fronton, located on an island off Callao, inmates using homemade weapons took four hostages and wounded three persons, according to the interior minister.
At Santa Barbara, a women's prison in Callao, rioters seized the female warden and two guards, the government said.