Nicaraguan gunmen seize journalists

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The Independent Online
MANAGUA (AFP) - Left-wing gunmen opened fire yesterday when a group of journalists abruptly moved on the Managua building where the group is holding captive some 35 hostages, including Vice-President Virgilio Godoy, police said.

The gunmen opened fire after several foreign and local journalists managed to get through a police cordon and ran towards the building. The kidnappers apparently mistook the journalists' action for an attack, a police spokesman said.

Radio Ya, reporting from close by, broadcast the sound of gunfire breaking out. The shots soon stopped, but more firing was heard some 15 minutes later. Police who have taken up positions some 150 yards from the building did not return fire and nobody was hurt, police said.

After the gunfire stopped, the abductors paraded several of the captives, stripped of their clothes, before the plate-glass windows of the building, including the former assembly speaker, Alfredo Cesar. The hostage- taking began on Friday when heavily armed pro-Sandinista insurgents stormed the building.

Earlier yesterday the gunmen said local journalists allowed into the building were now also hostages, after local press reports identified several of the masked kidnappers by name, 'putting our families in danger'. The journalists included a photographer working for the Washington Post and reporters from the local Barricada newspaper and Extravision television, Radio Ya said.

The hostage-taking at the headquarters of the National Opposition Union (UNO) coalition came a day after right-wing Contra rebels seized 37 officials on their way to peace talks with rearmed, formerly US-backed Contras in the north of the country. Negotiations to try to free both groups of hostages have made little apparent progress, although the gunmen in Managua released 14 hostages on Saturday as a goodwill gesture.

(Photograph omitted)