(en) Peruvian Soldiers Storm Diplomatic Residence; Hostages Rescued

Arm The Spirit (ats@locust.etext.org)
Tue, 22 Apr 1997 22:57:38 -0400 (EDT)

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Peruvian Soldiers Storm Diplomatic Residence; Hostages Rescued

Lima, Peru (Nando News - April 22, 1997) Peruvian forces stormed the Japanese ambassador's mansion amid explosions and gunfire Tuesday, rescuing hostages held for four months in a dramatic raid. Freed captives and jubilant soldiers cheered and sang in the compound. Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori told reporters all 72 hostages freed in the operation were "safe and sound". Earlier, Eloy Avila, Bolivia's acting ambassador to Peru, said he had been inside the residence and seen what appeared to be one dead hostage and three or four wounded soldiers. Local radio reported one soldier was killed. Peruvian and Japanese news media reported that the assault killed all of the at least 15 leftist Tupac Amaru rebels - at least two of them teen-age girls - who seized the compound 126 days ago. A pool of blood could be seen at the bottom of the stairway where soldiers led hostages to freedom. Peru's foreign minister, hostage Francisco Tudela, was carried out on a stretcher. Morihisa Aoki, the Japanese ambassador, smiled and waved from the ambulance that carried him away. He appeared unhurt. Bolivia said its ambassador, Jorge Gumucio Granier, had been freed unharmed. Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto said all 24 Japanese hostages - 12 businessmen and 12 diplomats - survived, some of them slightly injured. Hashimoto said Peru had not told him of the raid to free the hostages, even though the compound is technically Japanese soil. "Our country was not informed in advance and this is very regrettable", he said. Immediately after taking the mansion, Peruvian forces pulled down the Tupac Amaru flag, and martial music played in celebration. Freed hostages hugged and kissed one another. Less than an hour after the raid, President Alberto Fujimori strapped on a bulletproof vest to make a victorious entry to the compound. He sang the national anthem with soldiers and some released hostages. The president traveled with two busloads of hostages, apparently unharmed, to a nearby military hospital. Smiling and carrying a large red-and-white Peruvian flag, Fujimori shook hands with onlookers. Hostages inside the buses gave the thumbs-up sign and smiled. The heavily armed guerrillas stormed the residence on Dec. 17 during a cocktail party marking the Japanese emperor's birthday and took almost 500 hostages. They quickly released most of them, but have held 72 men to press their demand for the release of their jailed comrades. Until Tuesday, no one had died in the standoff. Soldiers stormed the compound Tuesday afternoon; sporadic explosions rocked the compound for more than an hour, and smoke billowed from the roof. Hours after the assault, flames leapt from the burning compound. Many people gathered at the military hospital and said the government had no choice but to attack. "We're here to applaud the hostages and police for their bravery", Edith Gonzalez said. "There was no other alternative but to attack." Despite faulting Peru for not consulting him about the raid, Hashimoto said afterward: "There should be nobody who could criticize Mr. Fujimori for his decision." That was echoed in Washington, where State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said of Peruvian officials: "We are not in a position to second-guess them." But the sister of one hostage said she wasn't sure. "I don't know if the attack was necessary", said Nancy Dominguez, 53. "All I know is it was a horrible shame." Talks to peacefully end the crisis broke down March 12 over the rebels' demand that Peru free their jailed comrades. Fujimori repeatedly ruled that out. Fujimori had said he would use force to end the crisis only as a last resort, but Peruvian news media repeatedly reported military plans to raid the compound. Rebels warned they had heavily mined the compound to prevent an assault, and staged drills earlier this month to prepare for raids. The hostage crisis had sparked a political crisis in Peru as well. Peru's interior minister and national police chief stepped down over the weekend to accept blame for security lapses that allowed the takeover.

---- Honor To The Martyrs Of The Edgar Sanchez Commando! Tupac Amaru Lives! The Struggle Continues! MRTA Solidarity Page - http://burn.ucsd.edu/~ats/mrta.htm

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