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Guatemalan Military Blamed for Terrorist Incident

January 6, 1996

WASHINGTON (AP) _ American lawyer Jennifer Harbury has been an outspoken critic of the Guatemalan military for years, and she believes a pre-dawn firebombing here was a clear attempt by the military hierarchy to intimidate her.

The target was a 1994 Acura belonging to her lawyer, Jose Pertierra. The vehicle, parked in his driveway, was doused with a flammable material and set afire Friday as Pertierra and his wife slept in their frame home. There were no injuries but the car was a total loss.

Harbury, in a telephone interview from Guatemala, held the Guatemalan military responsible. ``They are sending us a message,″ she said. ``Terrorism slowly but surely is edging its way into the U.S.″

Pertierra reached the same conclusion. ``I have no enemies, but I do have one high-profile client _ Jennifer Harbury,″ he said.

In Guatemala City, army spokesman Col. Guillermo Caal Avila denied the allegations. ``The armed forces are not involved in the attack Pertierra suffered, because they do not undertake activities outside the law,″ Caal said.

He suggested the incident ``could be an orchestrated event″ by Pertierra and Harbury.

Rep. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., a congressional supporter of Harbury, said in a letter to Attorney General Janet Reno, ``If this attack was indeed perpetrated by agents of a foreign military power against an American citizen, it would have grave consequences on our national security.″ The FBI is investigating.

Harbury is the widow of Guatemalan rebel leader Efrain Bamaca Velasquez, believed to have been captured in a fire fight in 1992 and slain by Guatemalan military personnel while in custody.

The U.S. government has information linking Bamaca’s death to Col. Julio Roberto Alpirez, a CIA agent at the time. Last March, Torricelli said Alpirez was responsible.

Harbury believes her husband’s remains are buried at a military camp in northwest Guatemala. She has sought permission to have the body exhumed and has staged hunger strikes in Guatemala City and Washington demanding information on her husband’s fate.

She also has called attention to the more than 100,000 people, mostly Indians, who have been killed in Guatemala during decades of civil war. She has said most are innocent civilians killed by the military.

Terrorist incidents in the United States involving foreign governments have been rare. The most significant was a 1976 car bombing in which a former ambassador from Chile, Orlando Letelier, and an American colleague were killed. The military government then in power in Chile was held responsible.

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