El Salvador’s lengthy civil war appeared to have moved into a new stage Wednesday after at least four powerful bombs were set off in affluent neighborhoods of San Salvador, the capital, late Tuesday.
Half a dozen people were injured in the blasts, and damage to nearby shops and restaurants was reported to be extensive.
The explosions marked the addition of a new type of urban terrorism to the already brutal battles that have been fought largely in the countryside and smaller cities. Rebels of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front have been active in San Salvador in the past, but for the most part they have attacked government installations and the buildings of political parties.
Two of the latest car bombs were detonated, apparently by remote control, on the Paseo Escalon, one of San Salvador’s toniest streets. The first blast ripped through a restaurant called The Biggest, which is frequented by children of wealthy Salvadorans. After destroying the car, the explosion threw the wrecked chassis onto the restaurant roof, sending glass shards flying through the air.
Nicolas Salume, owner of the restaurant, told reporters there were 40 diners and 10 employees present at the time.
At least five people were injured, he said. Police reported Wednesday that two of the victims had suffered serious facial cuts and are likely to lose their sight. Salume estimated the damage at more than $100,000.
Less than five minutes after the restaurant bombing, another car bomb exploded three blocks away at a small shopping plaza called the Condominio Alto del Paseo, the site of women’s shops, a furniture store and a beauty salon.
A passer-by was hurt by flying debris, police said. The bomb blew out windows, knocked down walls and tore large holes in the sidewalk.
Debris was hurled across the street against the wall of the British Embassy, but officials there reported only minimal damage. They said there was no indication that the embassy was a target.
Other bombs were placed against utility poles in nearby Colonia Maquilishuat, where several members of the U.S. Embassy staff live, as well as wealthy Salvadorans. Windows were shaken two miles away, but no injuries were reported and damage was limited to the utility poles.
U.S. Embassy spokesmen termed the bombings “deplorable terrorist acts against unarmed civilians. It is not an indication that the guerrillas are confident” of their past tactics, an American official said.
The last significant attack on a civilian target in San Salvador was in June, 1985, when four U.S. Marine guards from the embassy were shot to death in a bar in the San Benito district.
The rebels made no immediate claim of responsibility for the latest blasts, but sources in their civilian support groups in San Salvador said in an interview that the FMLN had placed the bombs.
“They want the rich, the people who support the fascist government, to know the fear that the people in the country feel from the army and the death squads,” one source said.
That reflected statements broadcast earlier this month by Radio Venceremos, the clandestine guerrilla radio. On Oct. 7, a Radio Venceremos commentator said:
“The rich are in this war as well. There is no secure place for the corrupt criminals of the country. . . . It is not just that bombs and explosions are heard only in the countryside, only in the towns and homes of the poor. In any place and at any time, revolutionary justice will arrive. It is not just that only the poor hear the noise of war and suffer its consequences.”
Over the weekend, the rebels firebombed a movie theater in an upper-middle-income neighborhood and dynamited several electric power facilities. Last week, a U.S. Embassy car was hit by machine-gun fire in the center of the city, but no one was hurt.