Ortega Threatens Military Action If Germans Not Released Soon
MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) _ President Daniel Ortega said government troops will move to free eight West Germans being held by Nicaraguan Contra rebels if the captives are not released by late today.
″We have the ability to take a military action at any moment to free the captives,″ he told a news conference Sunday.
″But,″ Ortega said, ″at the request of the German government we have given a time limit of 6 p.m. (8 p.m. EDT) in order that the mercenary forces free the captives.
″If not, we must take military action,″ he said.
Rebels of the U.S.-backed Nicaraguan Democratic Force seized the Germans on May 17 during an attack on a village 75 miles south of the capital of Managua. The four men and four women were working as civilian volunteers on housing projects.
West Germany has appealed to the United States to put pressure on the Contras to free the captives, who are being held in southern Nicaragua.
In Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Frank Arana, a spokesman for the rebels, said the Germans ″will be delivered in Managua when the Sandinista government gives the security guarantees that have been requested.″
He said Saturday that the rebels wanted the guarantees for the captives and three rebel leaders who were to accompany them.
He predicted the Germans would be turned over to International Red Cross officials this week.
At the news conference, Ortega was asked if the West German government supported military action to free the captives.
He replied, ″Neither the German government nor the Nicaraguan government wants a solution through the military route.″
He said the Contras have put off releasing the Germans four times and that they made a new proposal to negotiate the captives’ release.
″But we have rejected it,″ Ortega said, without giving details. ″Now the only thing that remains is for the government of U.S. President Ronald Reagan to order the mercenary forces to free the captives.″
Ortega spoke to reporters after a 40-minute meeting with a West German envoy, Hans Juergen Wischnewsky, who has been trying to win his countrymen’s release.
Arana on Friday said Nicaraguan government troops had attacked the rebels and violated a secret truce agreement worked out with the Sandinista government to free the Germans.
But a Nicaraguan army spokeswoman, Lt. June Mulligan, disputed the report of the attack, saying official policy was not to wage any kind of combat near the Germans. She also said she had no knowledge of any truce.
The Democratic Force is the largest of several U.S.-backed groups that have been fighting the Sandinistas, who came to power in July 1979 after defeating the rightist dictatorship of the late Anastasio Somoza.