2 Attacking Copters Shot Down, Nicaragua Reports
Two unidentified helicopters were shot down after they flew inside Nicaraguan territory from neighboring Honduras and attacked an observation post, the Sandinista government said Wednesday.
The director of the leftist government’s International Press Center said the helicopters fell in Nicaraguan territory, but a Defense Ministry spokeswoman, Capt. Rosa Pasos, later said the helicopters crashed inside Honduran territory after they were damaged by Sandinista gunfire on Monday.
“The damaged helicopters can be seen from Nicaraguan territory,” Capt. Pasos said in a telephone interview.
She denied a claim by Radio September 15, the clandestine station of the Honduras-based Nicaraguan Democratic Force, that the anti-Sandinista contras had shot down a Nicaraguan helicopter full of troops in the border area.
Fighting between Nicaraguan government troops and the contras has been intensifying near the Honduran border in the north, the Costa Rican border in the south and on the isolated Atlantic Coast in recent days. The escalation came as the House and Senate neared votes on U.S. aid to the contras.
The contras have been fighting the Sandinistas for more than three years and are known to operate from Honduras, a key U.S. ally in Central America.
The director of the press center, Maria Cristina Arguello, said the two downed helicopters were among three that entered Nicaraguan airspace from Honduras on Monday to attack the military post at Los Arenales, in the border province of Nueva Segovia. She said she did not know if anyone was injured in the crashes.
On Tuesday, Honduras denied that any of its aircraft were involved in the attack. There was no immediate comment from the Honduran government on the report that the downed helicopters were in Honduran territory.
The incident came as Sandinista warplanes bombed rebels attacking across the Costa Rican border and as Costa Rica’s foreign minister, Carlos Jose Gutierrez, rejected a Nicaraguan proposal to turn that area into a demilitarized zone.
Nicaragua suggested that the zone be supervised by a commission of observers from Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and Panama--which form the Contadora Group, which is seeking peace in the area--and that France should help with the task.
In a letter to the Contadora foreign ministers, Gutierrez said Costa Rica “opposes such an initiative because this commission has shown that it is inoperative.”