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URGENT Rebel Leader Surrenders

January 18, 1988

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) _ Rebel leader Lt. Col. Aldo Rico surrendered today after an assault by loyalist troops, ending a three-day revolt at Monte Caseros in northeastern Argentina, officials said.

Fifth Army Corps Commander Gen. Humberto Ferrucci said Rico turned himself over ″to the loyalist troops ... and placed his arms before Col. Colotti, commander of the Third Infantry Brigade.″

The surrender brought to an end a military crisis that convulsed Argentina since Rico escaped from house arrest Friday. On Saturday he turned up in Monte Caseros, declaring himself in rebellion and seizing an army compound with 100 followers.

About 2,000 loyalist troops backed by artillery had attacked the compound at noon.

After Rico took the Monte Caseros camp Saturday, at least six other insurrections sprung up in other parts of the country.

Authorities said the other revolts were waning, with the unconditional surrender of two rebel regiments, one in the northwestern town of Tucuman, the other in the western town of San Luis. A four-hour rebel seizure at Buenos Aires’ metropolitan airport also ended peacefully today.

Before the assault began in Monte Caseros, Rico and the 100 rebel officers asked for six hours to surrender, but Army Chief of Staff Gen. Jose Caridi demanded an immediate surrender, the government said.

It was not immediately known what, if any, terms Rico sought.

In Buenos Aires earlier today, President Raul Alfonsin’s Cabinet met in emergency session. His spokesman, Jose Ignacio Lopez, said reports the president was considering declaring a nationwide a state of siege were premature.

Ignacio Lopez, spokesman for President Raul Alfonsin, said loyalist troops had launched a two-pronged attack on Monte Caseros, 325 miles from the capital.

Earlier, Radio Chajari reported that a bridge leading to the camp was blown up today when a l mine planted on a road into Monte Caseros.

Rebel soldiers from the 161st Artillery Brigade in western San Luis peacefully surrendered to loyalist troops, and another two-day uprising at Infantry Regiment 19 in Tucuman ended today with the surrender of about 50 mutinous soldiers.

The army also said it quashed without gunfire a new rebellion today in a mountaineers’ infantry regiment in San Juan, 665 miles south of the capital.

The Defense Ministry said order was restored at the busy metropolitan airport and at least four rebels were arrested, though others escaped in the confusion. About 20 rebels seized the tower before dawn, forcing cancellation or detour of flights to Ezeiza International Airport, authorities said.

It was the second uprising led by Rico in nine months. In April, he led a brief military revolt demanding an end to prosecution of senior officers accused of human rights abuses during eight years of military rule that ended in 1983.

That revolt ended peacefully, and a few weeks later the government passed a law protecting most officers from prosecution. There was a mass outpouring of public support for Alfonsin during Rico’s first insurrection, but no such wide display of support was apparent today.

The 43-year-old Rico told reporters Sunday he was demanding the replacement of Caridi with an officer ″with sufficient prestige and stature to lead the armed forces.″

Rico told an impromptu news conference Sunday that his troops were ″well- supplied and will not surrender.″

The army said it arrested 13 officers Sunday in an uprising in Las Lajas, 680 miles southwest of Buenos Aires. No shots were fired.

Automobiles equipped with loudspeakers drove through Monte Caseros on Sunday night, warning the 18,000 inhabitants to stay away from the rebel garrison. The private news agency Noticias Argentinas said more than 1,000 residents evacuated a neighborhood bordering the base.

Local civilians jeered and shouted insults at the rebel officers, who replied with obscene gestures and threatening movements of their automatic weapons.

″We pay for your studies and you rebel against the constitution 3/8,″ shouted civilians as rebel troops, their faces blackened with camouflage paint, took up posts at the gate of the 4th Infantry Regiment.

Alfonsin’s government has said that during military rule, at least 9,000 people disappeared in the ″dirty war″ waged by security units against suspected left-wing subversives. Human rights groups claim about 30,000 people vanished after being picked up by government agents.

Rico, a decorated veteran of the 1983 Falkland Islands war, was under house arrest at a country club outside Buenos Aires awaiting trial in the April revolt when he fled.

The Defense Ministry told him he would be returned from house arrest to military confinement on the rebellion charges. Rico vowed to avoid detention until ″a minimum of justice is guaranteed″ and fled with a group of supporters.

Update hourly