Rebels Say 320 Soldiers Dead or Wounded in Recent Operations
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) _ Leftist rebels claimed Thursday they had killed or wounded 320 government soldiers taking part in an anti-guerrilla sweep in eastern El Salvador.
The armed forces press office said it had no figures on total casualties from the operations that began in mid-August in rebel strongholds in the northern regions of San Miguel and Morazan provinces.
However, previous government figures varied greatly from the rebel claims.
Rebels of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, in a broadcast on the clandestine Radio Venceremos, said 198 soldiers were killed or injured in an operation begun Aug.14 in Morazan province.
The rebel broadcast also said 122 soldiers were killed or wounded in San Miguel province where the army began operations in late August, shortly after government and rebel leaders agreed to hold a third round of peace talks in Sesori, a tiny farming village in that province.
The talks were to be held Sept. 19, but the rebels pulled out after accusing the military of occupying the site.
Col. Mauricio Vargas, the army’s commander in Morazan province, has said previously that two soldiers died and 30 were injured in the latest anti- guerrilla drive there.
Rebels are fighting to oust the U.S.-backed government of President Jose Napoleon Duarte.
In the nearly seven years of the civil war, the Defense Ministry says the army has suffered more than 20,000 casualties, including 7,386 dead and 13,189 In addition, about 55,000 civilians have been killed in the political violence, according to Salvadoran human rights organizations.
No figures are available on total rebel casualties.
The government says there were 11,000-12,000 guerrillas in 1983 and 3,000-4,000 last June, but that the decline is largely due to desertion.
The armed forces press office says that between January 1982 and September 1985, 3,545 guerrillas deserted the rebel ranks.