Army Discovers New Guerrilla Weapons Caches
LOS LLANITOS, El Salvador (AP) _ The army Tuesday reported the discovery of large caches of weapons and medical supplies stocked by leftist rebels and said the finds set the stage for a new offensive against the insurgents.
Col. Sigifredo Ochoa, who directs military operations in Chalatenango province where two of the three caches were found, said the discoveries were part of a search operation conducted in advance of a ″more offensive phase″ that would start immediately.
Gen. Adolfo O. Blandon, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters 95 percent of El Salvador’s military units have been mobilized for the new offensive.
He said it would be nationwide and would last ″as long as the chiefs of staff deem it convenient.″
The guerrillas’ clandestine Radio Venceremos, meanwhile, announced a ban on traffic on the nation’s roads beginning Wednesday. It also warned the public to prepare for power outages resulting from rebel sabotage.
Army spokesmen said the weapons caches were found Monday in Chalatenango province to the north and in San Vicente province in central El Salvador.
Blandon, speaking with reporters at the army’s Fourth Brigade headquarters in El Paraiso, said of the Chalatenango capture, ″I believe it to be the most significant in the conflict so far″ in terms of heavy weapons.
Reporters were flown to this mountainous area about two miles from the border with Honduras to view the weapons, which troops said were taken after a three-hour battle with rebels guarding them.
The cache included five mortars, four recoilless rifles, grenade launchers, 23 rifles, more than 3,000 bullets, rockets for rocket launchers, mortar rounds, blocks of TNT and large amounts of medicine.
While the journalists were there, troops searching another area of the pine-covered mountains radioed that they also had found a cache of medical supplies. They said it contained thousands of units of antibiotics, pain killers, distilled water and bandages.
Most of the weapons in the first cache were rusty, but Lt. Rigoberto Quintanilla said they probably had not been there for more than two weeks.
″Just give them a rubdown with some oil and they will work fine,″ he said.
The discovery in San Vicent province uncovered nearly 17,000 rounds of ammunition, ″enormous quantities″ of explosives and weapons replacement parts, the army press office said.
Radio Venceremos said the rebels’ traffic ban would begin Wednesday and last until further notice.
It is a tactic often used by the guerrillas in an attempt to disrupt the economy. They establish roadblocks in areas where they are strong, then stop and sometimes burn vehicles of motorists defying the ban.
The broadcast said the public should brace for power outages and warned electric company workers not to attempt to repair the damage, saying areas around the sabotaged towers will be mined.