LIMA, Peru -- Two Peruvian nationals serving religious missions for the Mormon Church were shot to death in the Adean city of Huancayo, church officials said Thursday.
Delmi Mendoza, the coordinator for Mormon missionary work in Peru, told United Press International that Manuel Antonio Hidalgo, 22, and Christian Andreani Ugarte, 21, both of Peru, were gunned down in a street in the Beanyacu district as they were walking to lunch at midday Wednesday.
Huancayo, the largest Andean city, is located 126 miles east of Lima in a zone that has been in a state of emergency for four years due to the high frequency of political violence.
Mendoza said a group of five people, possibly members of the left-wing subversive group Shining Path, headed off the two walking missionaries in a car, jumped out and shot the church workers, she said.
A Huancayo police spokesman said witnesses told officers the three male attackers waited until the missionaries had fallen before returning to the car, allowing the witnesses to get a description of the gunmen.
The spokesman said officials were optimistic that, with the discriptions, they would be able to capture the killers.
Mendoza said the attack was unrelated to the assasinations last year in Bolivia of two 20-year-old U.S. Mormon missionaries, Jeffrey Brent Ball and Todd Ray Wilson.
'The assasinations there had nothing to do with the murders here,' said Mendoza.
A small Bolivian guerrilla group, Zarate Willka, took responsibility for slaying Ball and Wilson. The band also claimed a failed bombing attempt on then Secretary of State George Shultz and an attack on the U.S. ambassador to La Paz.
The Huancayo attack was the second on the Mormon Church in Peru this year. A temple in the northern coastal city of Chiclayo was bombed in January, presumably by Shining Path, causing damage but no injuries.
Suspected Shining Path rebels also shot and killed the mayor of the Huancayo district of San Pedro de Sana, Romulo Hinostroza in his home Thursday morning, police said. On Wednesday, a police statement said seven suspected guerrillas fired two shots into the head of Andres Porras Geaspar, 31, killing him outside his home in the Huancayo district of San Geronimo.
The statement said a preliminary police investigation showed Geaspar was assassinated for not collaborating in the 'popular war' waged by the Shining Path on the government.
Official estimates show more than 20,000 people have died in political violence since Shining Path declared war on the government in 1980.