Blast rocks besieged envoy's residence

Warning theory as surrounded rebels grant freedom to one more hostage

An explosion, apparently from a grenade or dynamite, rocked the besieged Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima yesterday, raising initial speculation that hostages may have been hurt or that a military assault to free them may have begun.

Troops and police forming a cordon around the building took cover but there was no sign of activity within the walled compound and the situation quickly returned to normal.

Police suggested that the Tupac Amaru guerrillas holding more than 100 hostages may have set off the explosives as a warning to the authorities. A Red Cross spokesman claimed the blast was caused by an animal treading on a mine laid by the rebels in the compound. There was no sign of damage to the building nor was anyone reported to be injured.

More than 400 hostages have been freed since the rebels stormed a pre- Christmas cocktail party and they say the guerrillas, said to include a 16-year-old girl, are carrying backpacks loaded with explosives, ready to blow up themselves and the building if troops attack. The rebels claim to have laid mines or dynamite on the roof and all around the building in the San Isidro district of Lima. About 1,000 troops and police have encircled the residence.

Several hours after the blast the rebels released another hostage - the Guatemalan ambassador, Jose Maria Argueta, who walked out of the compound accompanied by the Red Cross negotiator, Michael Minning. He was the second hostage to be released within 24 hours, but 103 hostages are still being held. On Christmas Day, an ailing Japanese diplomat - Kenji Hirata, First Secretary at the embassy - was brought out in a wheelchair by International Red Cross workers and driven away in an ambulance. He was said to be suffering from dehydration.

Hostages and rebels received a Christmas Day treat when President Fujimori's daughter, Keiko - Peru's first lady since his divorce - and a group of white-uniformed waiters delivered 10 turkeys to a spot close by the building. Red Cross workers took the food inside.

Water, electricity and phone lines to the building have been cut off to heighten pressure on the rebels. Drinking water and food is being allowed in but the lavatories are over-used and hygiene is becoming a problem.

One freed hostage said Peru's Foreign Minister, Francisco Tudela, still being held, had joined others in cleaning the lavatories. Such reports brought wry smiles from poor Peruvians, many of whom sympathise with the rebels while mostly condemning their methods.

"The diplomats and businessmen who are living with too many people in too little space and with inadequate food and water and medicine are now living like the majority of Peruvians," said Hernando de Soto, a former adviser to President Fujimori who now attacks his economic policies.

The guerrillas are demanding populist economic policies, freedom for hundreds of their jailed comrades, safe passage out of the besieged building to an unknown location and an unspecified "war tax" of cash.

Diplomats in Lima say at least two Japanese corporations have made cash offers to buy the freedom of executives held hostage. The rebels are holding more than two dozen Japanese businessmen for no apparent reason other than their ransom value, the diplomats noted.

A Catholic bishop, Luis Cipriani, was believed to be carrying a message from Mr Fujimori and possibly negotiating with the guerrillas when he visited the residence on Christmas Day. He held a mass but stayed on for six hours.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Glazier

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist historic buildi...

Recruitment Genius: Office and Customer Services Manager

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small but very busy (and f...

Recruitment Genius: Portfolio Administrator

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has become known a...

Recruitment Genius: Mechanical and Electrical Engineer - Midlands

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrig...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot