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Nicaragua Trying To Identify Soldiers Killed In Downed Helicopter

August 30, 1987

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) _ A Defense Ministry communique said Saturday that the six people known killed in the crash of a military helicopter shot down by Nicaraguan rebels were two officers and four soldiers.

It said seven other people who were aboard the helicopter are missing and eight, including the pilot and co-pilot, are hospitalized.

A communique issued Friday, when the crash occurred in Jinotega province, had said 11 bodies were recovered. It also said nine other troopers were seriously injured and the pilot and co-pilot escaped unhurt.

A Defense Ministry spokesman, who spoke with the condition he not be identified, said Friday’s version was a preliminary report.

The Soviet-made Mi-17 helicopter was hit by a U.S.-made Redeye missile near the village of La Vigia, 125 miles north of Managua, the Defense Ministry said, and the missile was fired by rebels known as Contras.

It said the six men ″who died fighting the aggression of those countryless men of (President) Reagan were: Lt. Andres Gutierez, Lt. Enrique Morno and four soldiers.″

Missing are six lieutenants and three other soldiers, according to the Saturday communique.

A military source, who also spoke with the condition of anonymity, said it was not known if the missing were dead, lost in the rugged jungle area or had been captured by the rebels.

Jinotega province has been the scene of sharp fighting for the past month as troops of the leftist Sandinista government searched for several groups of U.S.-supported Contras who infiltrated the area.

Two army officers were killed Friday when Contras ambushed their jeep near the Jinotega town of San Rafael del Norte, about 105 miles north of Managua, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

It identified the two as Maj. Francisco Gutierrez Hernandez, second in command of the 6th Military Region which includes Jinotega and Matagalpa provinces, and Capt. Johny Angulo Perez, a section chief in the same military region.

By rebel count, this would be the 14th helicopter the Contras have downed. A Contra clandestine Radio Liberation broadcast two weeks ago claimed the rebels shot down 13 Sandinista helicopters so far this year.

A Defense Ministry statement Friday put the number at four.