Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Peruvian Rebels Release 225 Hostages; 140 Remain Captors Call Release from Residence `Christmas Gesture'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Peruvian Rebels Release 225 Hostages; 140 Remain Captors Call Release from Residence `Christmas Gesture'

Article excerpt

In a "Christmas gesture," leftist rebels freed 225 hostages Sunday night, including seven Americans. But they kept 140 captives behind to pressure Peru's president to meet their demands and shield themselves from reprisal.

After the last bus left for the police hospital, Michel Minnig, a Red Cross official, confirmed the figures for those liberated and those left behind at the Japanese Embassy residence.

A U.S. Embassy official said seven Americans were among the 225 freed. They were embassy and U.S. Agency for International Development officials. All American hostages are now believed to have been freed. Those released also included diplomats from Britain, Spain, Panama, Honduras, Venezuela, Bolivia, Germany, the European Union and the United Nations. Hundreds of Peruvian and foreign officials and businessmen were taken captive Tuesday night by Tupac Amaru rebels during a gala reception at the diplomatic residence. The rebels demanded freedom for about 300 of their imprisoned comrades. The rebels said in a statement read before the release Sunday that they were liberating captives who were not connected to the government as a Christmas gesture of good faith. But they warned the government that they would not free Peruvian officials unless President Alberto Fujimori agreed to their demands. "We clarify and insist that the liberation of the authorities who are today prisoner will only be possible if the government sets free (our) comrades," the rebels' statement says. It was read to crowds of waiting reporters by former Labor Minister Sandro Fuentes, who was released from the building to make the statement, along with the Panamanian ambassador, the Spanish charge d'affaires and a U.N. official. "We are proceeding to free people who are not connected to the policy of the regime, directly or indirectly, as a Christmas gesture," the rebel statement says. …

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