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Rebels Briefly Occupy Town Near Capital

December 22, 1988

SAN JOSE VILLANUEVA, El Salvador (AP) _ Leftist rebels clad as soldiers briefly occupied a town near the capital, where they killed a soldier and destroyed a telecommunications office, witnesses said Wednesday.

Elsewhere guerrillas blew up a military truck, killing two police officers and wounding 12, and they killed two guardsmen when they seized a National Guard post, the military reported.

A soldier, Jose Alfredo Sanchez, told The Associated Press about 30 members of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front took over San Jose Villanueva for about three hours Tuesday night.

The town of 4,000 inhabitants is 15 miles southeast of San Salvador, in La Libertad province.

Sanchez said the rebels, led by a man in a lieutenant’s uniform, tried to pass themselves off as soldiers of the Atlacatl Battalion, a unit specializing in anti-guerrilla operations.

He said the rebels killed Sgt. Jose Donis Rivera, the local civil defense chief, when he refused to let them enter the command station with their weapons. They then blew up a telecommunications office.

Sanchez said he escaped when the rebels were burning military documents.

Townspeople told the AP the guerrillas ran through the town shouting revolutionary slogans and inviting inhabitants to join their fight.

The Liberation Front is an umbrella organization of five guerrilla groups, all committed to overthrowing the U.S.-supported government.

Army officials found a military truck that rebels destroyed early Wednesday.

A soldier guarding the wrecked truck said rebels blew it up with a mine as it patrolled the highway between San Salvador and El Puerto de La Libertad, about eight miles to the southeast. The soldier spoke on condition of anonymity. Two national police were killed and 12 injured.

An army search for the attackers proved unavailing.

Armed Forces spokesmen said rebels occupied the National Guard post in Mercedes Umana on Tuesday night and killed two guardsman. Merces Umana is in Usulutan province, 77 miles east of the capital.

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