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Sandinistas Say Supply Flights Halted for Past Month

November 7, 1986

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) _ Rebel supply flights out of El Salvador and Honduras have been halted since Nicaraguan soldiers shot down a military transport plane flown by Americans, Nicaragua’s military intelligence chief said.

Capt. Ricardo Wheelock said Thursday the U.S.-backed Contra rebels had been trying in recent weeks to fly supplies out of Costa Rica on Nicaragua’s southern border. He did not say if those missions had been successful.

Meanwhile, captured American Eugene Hasenfus’ trial was extended for four days to allow a visit to the crash site.

Attorney Reynaldo Monterrey, president of the People’s Tribunal that is trying Hasenfus, said he would decide today whether to include Saturday and Sunday in the extension. The scheduled eight-day period for presenting evidence expired Thursday.

The government on Saturday begins celebrating the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, which came to power in 1979. Since 1981, the Sandinistas have been fighting U.S.-backed rebels seeking to oust them.

Hasenfus, 45, of Marinette, Wis., was aboard a C-123 cargo plane shot down Oct. 5 in southern Nicaragua on a rebel supply mission. Three other crewmen, including two Americans, were killed but Hasenfus parachuted to safety and was captured the next day.

He could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted of terrorism and other crimes against Nicaragua.

The court president on Thursday again rejected a request by defense attorney Enrique Sotelo Borgen to let Hasenfus’ wife, Sally, testify on behalf of her husband.

However, he said, the defense could enter Mrs. Hasenfus’ prepared statement in the record as documentary evidence.

Wheelock told a press conference the rebels’ switch from the northern to the southern supply route came after the plane carrying Hasenfus was shot down.

Statements by Hasenfus and flight logs found in the downed C-123 indicated scores of Contra supply missions were flown out of El Salvador’s Ilopango air base and Honduras’ Toncontin and Aguacate bses.

Wheelock said authorities had identified the third dead crewman on Hasenfus’ flight as radioman Freddy Vilchez Blandon of Nicaragua. He had been unidentified since the crash, and the Sandinistas initially said they thought he was a foreigner.

Film found on Vilchez Blandon’s body ″allowed us to confirm intelligence reports that a group of 400 Contras was trained by the 2nd Airborne Battalion of the Honduran army,″ according to Wheelock. He said Vilchez Blandon was among the rebels on the film.

In the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, a military intelligence source said Wheelock’s assertion about Honduran training of Contras was ″a tale invented by the Sandinistas.″

The source, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said Honduras only trained its own troops.

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