Pro-Sandinista gunmen seize nine journalists



MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP)—Leftist gunmen holding the vice president and other officials also took nine Nicaraguan journalists captive Sunday, deepening the hostage-taking stalemate with a rival political group.

In northern Nicaragua, meanwhile, Contra rebels rejected a proposal for simultaneous release of all captives. In all, about 70 people are held in Managua and the northern town of Qualili.

Militiamen loyal to the former Sandinista government hold the journalists and 20 officials, including Vice President Virgilio Godoy. In Qualili, the formerly U.S.-backed Contra guerrillas have detained 41 Sandinista lawmakers and other officials.

The two factions—on opposite sides of a guerrilla war in the 1980s—have become more militant over demands for land, money and other concessions promised after a peace accord was reached. The Contra forces also demand the removal of Sandinista officials from top government posts.

The hostage-taking, which began Thursday, has raised fears of a new civil war.

In Managua, a gunman who did not identify himself told pro-Sandinista Radio Ya that the journalists were seized for identifying the name of their commander in published and broadcast reports.

‘‘The journalists are now hostages,’‘ declared the gunman, one of about 20 heavily-armed men who raided the headquarters of the center-right National Opposition Union on Friday, seizing 34 hostages.

The journalists—all from Nicaraguan news outlets—had been inside the house for hours and a group of other reporters were suddenly expelled from the front porch Sunday morning.

On Saturday, the pro-Sandinista rebels freed 14 of their hostages, including two ailing politicians.

The gunman also said the commando on Sunday had expelled a monitor of the national Human Rights Commission, Ignacio Diaz Brenes, saying he had ‘‘acted as a spy’‘ for authorities. The gunman did not elaborate.

Hundreds of heavily armed police sealed off the area, placing huge steel barricades on streets and metal spikes on the roads.

In Qualili, about 175 miles north of Managua, mediators arrived for talks with Contra rebels, carrying a proposal for the immediate release of all hostages on both sides that would allow the abductors to go unpunished.

But Contra leaders issued a statement, read on Radio Ya, saying Jose Angel ‘‘The Jackal’‘ Talavera and his 400 rearmed Contras have ‘‘refused to meet with the commission sent by the government.’‘

The government issued no immediate response.

The government’s proposal, announced Saturday, was endorsed by President Violeta Chamorro, conservative opposition leaders and Sandinistas led by former President Daniel Ortega.

The standoff began Thursday when the Contras seized Sandinista lawmakers and other officials in Qualili. On Friday, more hostages were taken, and the group is now believed to hold 41 captives.

The Contras have demanded the removal from top government posts of leftist Sandinista officials. Sandinistas retained key positions despite their electoral defeat by Chamorro’s center-right coalition in 1990.

Chamorro’s economic program, including massive cuts in public spending, made inflation drop from 33,000 percent in 1990 to 3.5 percent last year. Unemployment in the past three years has soared to 60 percent.

An estimated 1,400 former rightist Contras and some demobilized Sandinistas have rearmed in recent months. At least 50 people were killed last month in a rebellion in Esteli, about 60 miles north of Managua.