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U.S. Had Unwittingly Deported Terrorist in Americans’ Murders

August 29, 1985

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) _ Security officials say American immigration authorities deported a Salvadoran, unaware that he was one of the suspects in a guerrilla attack that killed 13 people, including six Americans.

The suspect, Juan Miguel Garcia Melendez, was arrested when he returned to El Salvador on Aug. 18, said Col. Aristides Napoleon Montes, director of the National Guard, at a news conference Wednesday.

Garcia Melendez crossed into the United States from Mexico illegally, was arrested by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and deported, said Montes.

He did not say when or where the immigration officials caught Garcia Melendez.

The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service could not be reached for comment early today.

Garcia Melendez is one of three suspects being held in connection with the June 19 machine-gun attack that killed 13 people in two adjoining sidewalk cafes in San Salvador’s Zona Rosa.

Four of the victims were off-duty U.S. Embassy Marine guards. Two others were American businessmen working for a computer company. A fifth was Chilean and a sixth was a Guatemalan man. Seven victims were Salvadoran.

A fourth man was wounded by gunfire at the scene of the attack and died in hospital a few hours later. Seven other suspects are being sought by Salvadoran security agencies, and officials say they know the identities of five of them.

Col. Carlos Reynaldo Lopez Nuila, the head of El Salvador’s security forces, said American authorities did not know of Garcia Melendez’s alleged involvement in the attack when they arrested him.

Security agents identified him from a composite drawing when he arrived back at San Salvador’s airport, Nuila said at the news conference.

Jose Abraham Dimas Aguilar and Wilian Celio Rivas Bolanos, the two other suspects who have been arrested, were picked up without incident during a raid at an an upholstery workshop Aug. 12 in San Salvador, the two officers said.

Aguilar and Bolanos gave police detailed descriptions of how the raid was planned and carried out, the two officers said. They also said that Dimas Aguilar’s brother, Ismael, identified as the leader of the squad, was among the fugitives.

All 11 suspects were identified as members of the Central American Revolutionary Worker’s Party, which claimed responsibility for the attack. The party is the smallest of five guerrilla groups that make up the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, which is fighting the U.S.-backed government.

The three suspects in custody are being held at National Guard headquarters pending trial by a military court, and have been visited by the Red Cross and family members, the two officers said.

Under a national emergency declared five years ago to deal with the leftist guerrilla war, all crimes defined as terrorism are tried by military judges.

Judicial procedure gives both the defense and prosecution 90 days to present evidence to the military judge, who then decides whether there is enough evidence to merit a trial.

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