5 Killed, Pinochet Safe in Attack on Motorcade : State of Siege Imposed in Chile After Military Escorts Are Slain in Ambush; Leftists Blamed

From Times Wire Services

Leftist guerrillas ambushed President Augusto Pinochet’s motorcade Sunday as he was returning to Santiago from his countryside retreat, killing five bodyguards and slightly injuring the president, officials said. A nationwide state of siege was declared a few hours later.

Government spokesman Francisco Cuadra reported that 10 military escorts were wounded, two seriously, in a gunfight that ensued after the lead car in the motorcade was demolished by an explosion.

Pinochet, interviewed on state television early today, said he suffered shrapnel cuts on his left hand during “an extremely intense shootout” on a steep, winding road in the Maipo Canyon, 18 miles southeast of Santiago.


The 70-year-old president, who returned to his official residence in the capital after the assassination attempt, said the guerrillas “attacked with rockets, grenades and gunfire from all sides.”

He said he dove to the floor of his Mercedes-Benz limousine, covering his 10-year-old grandson, until his security detail repelled the attackers.

Pinochet’s voice trembled slightly during the interview. His left hand was heavily bandaged.

“We are in a war between democracy and Marxism, between chaos and democracy,” he said.

The attack was the first known assassination attempt against the five-star general who has ruled Chile since overthrowing elected Marxist President Salvador Allende 13 years ago this week.

The attack on the presidential motorcade came at about 6:40 p.m. Sunday as Pinochet was traveling back to the capital from his El Melocoton retreat in the Cordillera mountains.

In a statement late Sunday night, Cuadra said “a terrorist commando group of at least 12 persons” staged the attack “with different kinds of armaments,” destroying three vehicles in the convoy.


Pinochet Speeds Away

An explosion destroyed the lead car as it crossed a bridge. The heavy fighting that followed left other cars in the convoy severely damaged, Cuadra said. The car carrying Pinochet sped away through the melee.

Cuadra said two military policemen and three soldiers in the motorcade escorting the president’s limousine were killed.

Three soldiers, a military intelligence officer and six military policemen were wounded, two of them seriously, Cuadra added.

There were no known casualties among the assailants.

Cuadra said that leftist guerrillas were responsible for the attack but he did not elaborate.

Search Mounted

Police said they found a blue Chevrolet van belonging to the assailants and were looking for several other vehicles reportedly used by the gunmen, who apparently had been posing in the area as tourists. Government security forces Sunday night mounted a massive search in the region for others who might have been involved in the attack.

A man identifying himself as a spokesman for the Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front telephoned news agencies 90 minutes after the attack and said it had been carried out by members of that Communist guerrilla group.


“We failed this time. We will not fail next time,” the caller told Associated Press.

However, another caller who was recognized by his voice as a leader of the front told the AP that the rebel group had made no such claim.

Interior Minister Ricardo Garcia announced the state of siege after an emergency meeting of the four-man military junta. The state of siege allows the government to tap telephones, open mail and hold prisoners in secret locations indefinitely. It suspends judicial review of the government’s power to arrest and banish dissidents, ban public gatherings and censor the press.

“The attack against the life of the chief of state is also an attack against national life and against all Chileans,” Garcia said in a nationwide television address.

Pinochet last resorted to a state of siege on Nov. 6, 1984, to curb a mounting wave of unrest and violent protests by opponents seeking the restoration of democracy. It was lifted on June 17, 1985.

The attack on the motorcade followed a month of highly publicized government claims concerning the discoveries by security forces of large hidden caches of automatic rifles, rocket launchers and explosives in Santiago and northern towns. Government officials have said the weapons were smuggled into the country from Cuban trawlers for use by Communist guerrillas in a planned intensification of their war against the regime.

Mass Rally Scheduled

The government had scheduled a mass rally in Santiago this week to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 1973, coup. The country has been tense over anti-Pinochet protests called by leftist groups last week and the possibility of terrorist strikes.


Several thousand people were killed in the 1973 coup and the armed forces’ crackdown on leftists that followed.

Allende died in the presidential palace on the morning of the coup. His supporters claim he was slain by soldiers or policemen who forced their way into his office, but the government said he committed suicide with a carbine that was a gift from Cuban President Fidel Castro.