U.S. Protester Says He Saw Results of Contra Ambush
MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) _ One of 10 Americans walking through Nicaragua to protest U.S. aid for the Nicaraguan rebels said Saturday he had come across the site of a ″bloody ambush″ conducted earlier by the guerrillas.
Brian Willson, 45, of San Rafael, Calif., spoke on national radio from San Ramon, 70 miles northeast of Managua, during cermemonies attended by President Daniel Ortega marking the end of the coffee harvesting season in Matagalpa province.
Two journalists traveling to meet the marchers also saw the ambush site and said the rebels, known as Contras, killed six Sandinista soldiers and wounded eight.
″Just yesterday, when being driven from northern Nicaragua in order to be here today, on the very road we had walked two days earlier, we were startled by a bloody ambush that had occurred only a short time earlier,″ Willson said on the radio.
Ortega said of Willson: ″He is a veteran of the Vietnam war - a man who was obligated by circumstances to fight thousands of kilometers (miles) away (in Vietnam) from his homeland to fight a people who were fighting for their independence. Now, he is here in Nicaragua, saying to the American government ’do not make the same mistake again.‴
Several other Americans on the march also are veterans of the Vietnam and Korean wars.
Ortega also said Willson is ″an American who, full of good will and who represents the true feelings of the North American people, has come with others to Nicaragua to demonstrate his solidarity with the people....″
Willson said the group has heard five firefights and a mortar attack since begining the 70-mile march Monday from Jinotega, 18 miles northwest of the provincial capital of San Ramon. They hope to reach Wiwili, north of Managua, on Sunday.
Michael Capeless, a free-lance photographer from Alburquerque, N.M., and Ester Nordland, a reporter for the Arbeiderbladet newspaper in Oslo, Norway, said they came upon the ambush site Friday, minutes after the attack. The site was 85 miles north of Managua between Jinotega and Wiwili.
They said most of the American marchers were about 20 miles to the north when the attack occurred, and none was involved. Willson was returning to San Ramon when he passed the battleground and saw the burning truck and soldiers attending to wounded comrades, according to the two journalists.
Capeless said survivors told him the rebels fired grenades and automatic rifles at the truck carrying 29 Sandinista soldiers. He said he found four U.S.-made, M-79 grenade shells on the ground near the truck, plus expended rifle shells.
″After we got there, two soldiers who had been blown out of the truck were found,″ Capeless said. ″One was in shock, his eardrums were probably broken and he was really dazed from the explosions.″
Another soldier had been hiding in bushes near the truck, Capeless said.
″Suddenly the flames from the truck spread into the bushes, and he started screaming,″ the photographer said. ″His buddies went in and grabbed him before the flames got to him.″
No rebel bodies were found, he added.
Lt. Carlos Lara, a Defense Ministry spokesman in Managua, said he had no information about the ambush.
The attack occurred south of the area where much of the fighting has been in recent weeks, indicating the rebels are penetrating farther into the country from their bases in southern Honduras.
Earlier this week, U.S. Embassy spokesman in Managua Al Laun said the United States would hold the Nicaraguan government responsible for the American marchers because the Sandinistas could have stopped them from making the march. But the protesters said they would not blame the government or people if any of them were hurt.
″We have been called communists on the Voice of America. We are internationalists who live in the United States and we are against the intervention of our country in this country,″ marcher Holley Ravin, 34, of San Rafael, Calif., said Friday.
Other marchers are John Poole, 41, Oak Park, Ill.; John Schuchardt, 47, Madison, Conn., and his wife Judith Williamson; Richard Schoos, 36, Santa Cruz, Calif.; Scott Rutherford, 53, Washington; John David Isherwood, 63, Santa Cruz, Calif.; Joseph Ashley, 62, Goleta, Calif.; and Peter Eaves, 33, Maplewood, Minn.