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Peru’s Leader: Don’t Lay Blame Yet

April 24, 2001

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LIMA, Peru (AP) _ Peru’s prime minister said on Tuesday that it was too early to lay blame for last week’s deadly shoot-down of a U.S. missionary plane and criticized U.S. newspapers for rushing to judgment.

``Unfortunately, some newspapers in the United States are drawing conclusions before the investigations have been completed,″ Javier Perez de Cuellar told Peru’s CPN radio from New York. He did not mention specific newspapers.

The bodies of missionary Veronica ``Roni″ Bowers, 35, and her 7-month-old daughter, Charity, were returned to the United States early Tuesday, four days after a single-engine Cessna they and three survivors were flying in was apparently mistaken for a drug-smuggling flight and shot from the sky in Peru’s northern Amazon.

The missionaries had filed a flight plan and were fired on without warning, relatives and friends say. Peru’s air force has countered that the flight did not identify itself and was flying through a drug-trafficking region without a flight plan.

``I think that for the moment it would be premature to say that Peru’s air force was responsible or that the pilot of the plane was responsible,″ said Perez de Cuellar, who was in New York after attending the Summit of the Americas in Quebec.

Her husband, Jim Bowers, 37, and their 6-year-old son, Cory, survived unharmed. Pilot Kevin Donaldson was recovering Tuesday in a Reading, Pa., hospital after surgery to repair smashed bones and severed tendons from bullets fired by the Peruvian jet fighter.

The missionaries were with the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, based in New Cumberland, Pa.

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