Nearly two dozen hostages released in Peru
December 28, 1996
Web posted at: 6:00 p.m. EST (2300 GMT)
LIMA, Peru (CNN) -- Twenty hostages walked out of the Japanese ambassador's house late Saturday afternoon, after the first direct negotiations between a Peruvian government
official and leftist rebels.
They were accompanied by the Red Cross' Michel Minnig. One of those newly released, Auturo Pendavis, read a rebel statement that referred to a number of grievances the hostage-takers have, focusing on negative media coverage they have received.
The guerrillas say in the statement they resent being called
"terrorists" and being compared to the Shining Path, a group they say they have repeatedly condemned.
The identities of the released hostages were not immediately available, and about 80 remain held at gunpoint.
The White House declined to comment on the latest release.
The breakthrough came shortly after Peruvian Education Minister Domingo Palermo -- appointed by President Alberto Fujimori -- met for more than three hours with the Tupac Amaru hostage takers.
Palermo made no immediate statement to reporters on leaving the fortified compound. His was the first time a government official had entered the residence since the siege began 11 days ago.
Palermo apparently made progress in his talks. He entered the residence Saturday afternoon, accompanied by a Red Cross official and a Roman Catholic bishop.
All previous contact has been through the Red Cross, but that organization's spokesman said Saturday it was eager for the government to establish direct contact with the rebels.
The hostage crisis started December 17, when about 20 members of the Tupac Amaru movement, in a well-planned raid, infiltrated a gala cocktail party and seized more than 500 captives.
The guerrillas gradually have released most hostages but still hold businessmen, police and government officials -- including the ambassadors from Japan, Malaysia, Bolivia, Honduras and the Dominican Republic.
Peru's sending an official representative to meet with the
rebels marked the first time it had attempted face-to-face contact, a significant advance in negotiations. It seemed to diminish the likelihood that force would be used to free the hostages.
The rebels' main demand is that Peru release their jailed
comrades, who number about 300. So far, Fujimori's official
position has been to refuse to negotiate with the rebels until they lay down all arms and free all hostages.
Shortly before Palermo entered the residence, Red Cross
spokesman Roland Bigler said there was hope "that more channels can be opened that will lead to a more direct dialogue between the interested parties."
- Peruvian government negotiator enters Japanese ambassador's residence - December 28, 1996
- Peruvian hostage crisis enters 11th day - December 28, 1996
- Freed captives a way for rebels to send a message - December 26, 1996
- Hostage-takers release Guatemalan ambassador - December 26, 1996
- Animal may have caused Peru hostage blast - December 26, 1996
- Another hostage, apparently ill, released in Peru - December 25, 1996
- Hostage freed in Peru after Uruguay makes concession - December 24, 1996
- Peru hostage crisis at impasse on Christmas Eve - December 24, 1996
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