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1 hostage killed in daring Peru rescue


71 hostages freed; 2 soldiers, 14 rebels perish

April 22, 1997
Web posted at: 11:38 p.m. EDT (0338 GMT)

In this story:

LIMA, Peru (CNN) -- After being held captive for four long months by a small band of leftist rebels, 71 men were freed from the Japanese ambassador's residence Tuesday when an attack force of 140 Peruvian commandos stormed the compound.

One hostage and two soldiers were killed in the attack, according to Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori. All 14 rebels from the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement died, he said.


About 25 other hostages and soldiers were injured, but Fujimori said only two were injured seriously and they were expected to recover.

"[The rebels] were armed to the hilt, and we had to act," Fujimori said in an impromptu meeting with reporters late Tuesday. "There was no other way out."

His voice rising, the president said the attack showed that, "in Peru, we are not going to accept terrorism."

M u l t i m e d i a
During the rescue

The hostage crisis in Peru ends in gunfire - images from the assault and its aftermath
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Lou Waters brings us the first live on-air report of the ending of the hostage crisis in Lima, Peru
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Soldiers celebrate the ending of the hostage crisis
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Listen to the initial moments of the seige (at 16 bits)
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Listen to the initial moments of the seige (at 8 bits)
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Reporter Sharon Stephenson reacts to one of the explosions

But in Germany, the international spokesman for Tupac Amaru, Issac Velazco, called Fujimori's decision to storm the compound "criminal" and said remaining rebels would avenge the deaths of their comrades.

"There are economic and military targets that will be attacked," Velazco said.

After 4 months, it was over in an hour


Events leading to Tuesday's dramatic rescue began December 17 as Japanese Ambassador Morihita Aoki hosted a reception in honor of the emperor's birthday. In the midst of the affair, Tupac Amaru rebels stormed the compound, taking more than 500 hostages.

The government had tried to negotiate with the rebels, but talks broke down on March 12, apparently over the guerrillas' basic demand: freedom for their imprisoned comrades.

Rebels gradually released all but 72 men.

Tuesday, the crisis that had dragged on for four months ended in less than an hour. Explosions and gunfire erupted around 3:20 p.m. local time (4:20 p.m. EDT). A short time later -- as light smoke curled up from windows and air vents -- some of the 72 hostages were seen being hustled off of the roof by troops.

Layout of Japanese ambassador's residence

Forty minutes after the attack began, soldiers on the roof could be seen embracing, cheering and raising their arms in signs of victory. They tore down Tupac Amaru flags and threw them from the roof, as martial music played on loudspeakers in the background.

Periodic explosions continued for more than a hour, as smoke and fire sprouted from the roof.

Local television, citing unidentified police sources, reported that commandos surprised the rebels during their daily soccer game.

Soldiers salute Fujimori with anthem


Shortly after the standoff ended, Fujimori, who had taken a hard line in refusing to give into the rebels' demands to release their comrades held in Peruvian prisons, toured the scene, wearing a bullet-proof vest.

He spoke with a group of hostages and soldiers who had gathered in front of the residence. The soldiers saluted Fujimori and sang the Peruvian national anthem.

Among the hostages rescued were Fujimori's brother, Pedro; his foreign minister, Francisco Tudela; and Ambassador Aoki.

The dead hostage was identified as Peruvian Supreme Court Justice Carlos Giusti.

Hostages were taken by buses and ambulances to a nearby hospital, where anxious family members gathered to meet them. As they boarded buses, Fujimori stood at the door greeting them.

Japanese officials not consulted

The storming of the residence came on the same day that a mediator in the standoff, Archbishop Juan Luis Cipriani, sent a letter to Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto saying that maximum care was being taken to reach a successful, peaceful solution.

Japanese officials in Tokyo had been putting pressure on Peruvian officials not to solve the standoff militarily, and Fujimori had previously said that he would consult the Japanese government before using force against the rebels.

But Hashimoto, while expressing his appreciation for the rescue, said at a Tokyo press conference his government had not been consulted prior to the attack. He characterized that as "very regrettable."

Fujimori said Hashimoto was not consulted beforehand in order to maintain the element of surprise needed to make the operation a success.

soldier flag

Fujimori has taken a hard line on rebel movements

Just what prompted the Peruvian government to launch the raid Tuesday, after letting the standoff linger for 126 days, wasn't immediately clear.

But over the weekend, Fujimori had appointed two hard-line generals to top security posts. Dissatisfaction with the ongoing hostage saga, which was sapping Fujimori's popularity, was seen as one of the reasons for the move.

Since he assumed the presidency in 1990, Fujimori, who is of Japanese descent, had led a successful crackdown on rebel movements in Peru, including the Tupac Amaru and the Maoist Shining Path.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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