Leftist rebels Wednesday launched a string of attacks in northern El Salvador that killed at least 37 people, most of them rebels, four days before national elections, military officials said.
Rebels of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, who have vowed to disrupt Sunday’s elections, struck two military bases and five towns before dawn in the northernmost province of Chalatenango, army and rebel reports said.
The rebels’ clandestine Radio Venceremos said at least seven government soldiers were killed and 16 were wounded in an attack on the 4th Military Brigade headquarters in El Paraiso, about 30 miles north of San Salvador.
The Defense Ministry said 12 guerrillas were killed and 20 others were wounded in that fighting and said only two government soldiers were killed, while six others were wounded.
The radio said guerrillas also hit the garrison in the city of Chalatenango, the provincial capital. But army officials said the rebels were repulsed after an eight-hour battle, leaving 18 guerrillas and two soldiers dead and four soldiers wounded.
In a clash in Tejutla, a town near Chalatenango, three guerrillas were killed and 20 other were wounded, the military said.
Rebel radio reported seven soldiers killed in attacks on four smaller towns.
At the same time, the rebels broadened their threat to destroy Sunday’s election.
“The polling places will be sabotaged and those persons who lend themselves to this electoral game will later be killed, because participation indicates agreement with escalation of the war,” said a rebel statement sent to radio stations on Wednesday.