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Gunmen Free Nine Hostages From Nicaraguan Embassy But Standoff Continues

March 12, 1993

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) _ Gunmen demanding $6 million in ransom and the ouster of top Nicaraguan government officials were holding 16 hostages at the Nicaraguan Embassy today after releasing nine.

On Thursday, the gunmen, foes of Nicaraguan President Violeta Chamorro, freed two Costa Rican men and seven Nicaraguan women.

Ambassador Alfonso Robelo and 15 others, all believed to be Nicaraguans, were still being held.

Those released included Consul Dora del Carmen Narvaez and the embassy’s third secretary, Maria Teresa Torres Guerra, Mrs. Chamorro’s niece.

In Managua, the Nicaraguan capital, three people armed with pistols took over a radio station today to broadcast an anti-Chamorro message. One of the three was in police uniform. Dolores Arana, a co-owner of the station, said police detained the three after the message was broadcast, but an Interior Ministry spokesman would not confirm that.

Mrs. Chamorro issued a statement urging Costa Rican authorities to take unspecified ″special measures″ to end the embassy standoff.

The gunmen stormed the embassy on Monday, demanding $6 million and major changes in the Chamorro government, including the dismissal of Gen. Humberto Ortega, a leftist Sandinista and chief of the armed forces.

Mrs. Chamorro rejected the demands.

A coalition backing Mrs. Chamorro defeated the Sandinistas in 1990 elections. But because the Sandinistas are Nicaragua’s largest political party, she kept some in key posts to avoid rekindling the civil war that scarred the country in the 1980s. Conservatives say this goes against the expressed will of the Nicaraguan voters.

The attackers are led by Jose Urbina Lara, 30, a naturalized Costa Rican born in Nicaragua. Nicaraguan Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo, who has been mediating the standoff, said the gunmen are armed with rifles, grenades and jugs of gasoline.

Lara has said he will not kill the hostages but will fight anybody who tries to retake the embassy.

Update hourly