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Salvadoran Guerrillas Kill 17 in Power Plant Attack

From Reuters

Leftist Salvadoran rebels killed 17 government soldiers Friday and wounded 16 more in heavy fighting during an attack on the country’s main hydroelectric plant, the military reported.

Six guerrillas were killed and about 20 others wounded in the attack, a military spokesman said.

At least three transformers were damaged at the Cerron Grande hydroelectric plant in the northern province of Chalatenango, cutting off power in the northern and central part of the country for several hours, military and radio reports said.

The rebels, meanwhile, announced that they would suspend offensive operations from today until Wednesday and from March 9-11, but reserved the right to defend their positions if attacked.

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The March 9-11 truce is aimed at helping opposition political parties compete more effectively with the ruling rightist Nationalist Republican Alliance in legislative and municipal elections scheduled for March 10, the rebels said in a statement.

It was the first time in a decade of civil war that the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) has announced a truce for elections.

The rebels have said no voting will be allowed in zones under their military control, although residents will not be stopped from traveling elsewhere to vote.

A separate truce that begins today was called to honor the memory of Guillermo Manuel Ungo, the veteran Salvadoran leftist leader who died Thursday after a short illness in Mexico City, the clandestine Radio Farabundo said.

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Defense Minister General Rene Emilio Ponce dismissed the rebel truce announcement as insincere.

“We have to take these truces with a pinch of salt,” he told the independent radio station YSU. “We have always believed the FMLN uses these measures for propaganda purposes.”

Ponce also rejected the rebels’ claims that elections could not take place in zones under their control, saying the army would guarantee voting wherever election authorities ordered polling booths set up.


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