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West Germans Ask U.S. Help to Free Colleagues from Contras

May 19, 1986

JUIGALPA, Nicaragua (AP) _ Three West Germans working for the Sandinista government have asked the U.S. government to help secure the release of eight colleagues believed kidnapped by American-supported rebels.

The 11 West Germans and a Chilean man who worked with them were asleep in a house in Jacinto Baca, 120 miles southeast of the capital of Managua, when the eight foreigners were abducted before dawn Saturday.

One of the kidnappers wore a cap with the initials ″FDN,″ said one of the Germans, Dagmar Vogel, who spoke at a press conference Sunday at a Sandinista army post in Juigalpa.

The FDN is the Honduras-based, U.S.-backed Nicaraguan Democratic Force, the largest of the Contra rebel groups fighting to overthrow the leftist Sandinista government.

Ms. Vogel, 24, of Oberhausen, West Germany, and two colleagues - Sean Peter Steinbach, 24, of West Berlin, and Regine Christiansen of Hamburg - said they hid to escape being abducted. Ms. Vogel said the guerrillas left behind Miguel Bustos of Chile, who was slightly wounded in the leg and was in a Nicaraguan hospital.

The 12 had been in the village about 10 days working as volunteers for the Nicaraguan Construction Ministry, building houses for peasants, the Sandinista Foreign Ministry said.

Ms. Vogel and Steinbach called on the United States and West Germany to help gain their co-workers’ release.

″We ask the government of the United States to immediately stop all aid to the Contras (rebels) so they cannot perpetrate criminal acts such as this one,″ Steinbach said. ″We know that what happened to us is something that happens day by day to the Nicaraguans. It is daily life for the Nicaraguans.″

Telephone calls to the West German Embassy in Managua were not answered Sunday.

Nicaraguan Democratic Force rebels generally have operated in northern Nicaragua from base camps inside neighboring Honduras.

However, military sources have told The Associated Press that the Contras have been operating as far south as Zelaya province in central Nicaragua, and that in all areas of fighting they have concentrated on economic targets.

Ms. Vogel said her group was awakened about 5 a.m. Saturday when the rebels entered the village and began exchanging gunfire with Sandinista troops and local militiamen.

The fighting continued for about 30 minutes, she said, and then a guerrilla appeared on the patio of the house and ordered everyone outside.

″He said if we didn’t leave, he would throw a bomb inside,″ she said.

The 12 foreign workers, their cook and four other Nicaraguans were ordered to move away from the house, and as the gunfire increased, some of the workers slipped away, according to Ms. Vogel.

″The Contras were too busy fighting to look for the ones who went and hid,″ she said. ″I stayed among some trees.″

The eight abducted by the rebels were identified as Doris Altenburg, Astrid Stelter, Angelika Gotz, Reingard Zimmer, Jurgen Wilfried Kuhr, Dirk Diethelm Hegmanns, Dominik Diehl and Siegfried Ruttig.

Groups of young people, especially Europeans, have come to Nicaragua as volunteers since the Sandinistas came to power in 1979 after toppling the right-wing regime of the late President Anastasio Somoza in a civil war.

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