Rebels Launch Major Attack On Troop Barracks
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) _ The military said leftist guerrillas on Thursday killed or wounded 50 government troops in a rifle and mortar attack on a San Miguel garrison that also houses American advisers.
The U.S. Embassy said three American military advisers and two U.S. military physicians were inside the walled garrison at the time of the four- hour, pre-dawn attack, but escaped injury.
The guerrillas, grouped as the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, claimed during a broadcast of their clandestine Radio Venceremos that the attack by four battalions resulted in 253 soldiers killed or wounded.
However, the Salvadoran military press office said 50 soldiers were killed or wounded in the assault that began shortly after midnight with rifle and mortar fire. At least 20 guerrillas died, it said.
It was not possible to confirm any of the casualty claims from the guerrilla assault, the largest in five months.
The military press office said in a brief statement that the attack damaged the inside of the garrison, ″especially the area where the soldiers sleep.″
San Miguel, about 80 miles east of San Salvador, is the capital of San Miguel province. No civilian casualties were reported.
″The attack started north of the barracks,″ said one military source at the garrison, speaking on condition of anonymity. ″We only heard the mortars and all of us left to take our positions, but I don’t know how many have been killed or how many wounded, but there are people killed.″
The base is the largest in the eastern third of the country, where most of the fighting between the rebels and government troops has occurred in a civil war now in its seventh year. It serves as one of two training centers for combat medics, who receive instruction from U.S. advisers.
It is also the home base for the Lt. Col. Domingo Monterrosa Third Infantry Brigade, whose primary mission is to keep the rebels in check in the region.
The brigade was named for one of the Salvadoran army’s military leaders who died in an October 1984 helicopter crash.
Sources at the garrison said rebels also mounted an attack against a nearby electrical generator plant, but were repulsed without damage to the facility.
San Miguel is the third-largest city in the nation.
The attack came amid efforts to restart peace talks, which broke off in 1984. President Jose Napoleon Duarte offered on June 1 to resume negotiations, and the rebels have accepted. However, neither a date nor a location have been announced.
The nation’s defense minister, Gen. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, who went to San Miguel after the attack, told reporters there, ″This attack will not affect the third round of talks for the end of July or during August.′
The last major action by the rebels came in January when they attacked three coffee processing plants in Juayua, about 40 miles west of the capital in Sonsonate province.