In Nicaragua, the two sides locked in the country's bitter civil war prepared for a decisive battle on Tuesday (10 July).
In Nicaragua, the two sides locked in the country's bitter civil war prepared for a decisive battle on Tuesday (10 July). It was expected to come over Masaya, the city held by Sandinista guerrillas and only twenty-six kilometres (16 miles) from the capital of Managua. The threat of a final showdown came after a peace formula suggested by the United States had been rejected.
SYNOPSIS: Outside the capital, the guerillas moved ???eerily between the towns and cities they had captured. Continuing their fight to end forty years of rule by President Anastasio Somoza, the Sandinistas had managed to tie down the government's National Guard in many areas. By Tuesday (9 July), the guerrillas claimed to control at least twenty-four cities and towns.
Sadinista roadblocks monitored movements between Esteli and Leon -- Nicaragua's second largest city which came under the control of the guerrillas after weeks of bitter fighting. But in the suburbs of Managua, the National Guards took over checkpoints abandoned by the Sandinistas. They've moved further out to set up blocks on the road to the town of Sebaco.
In Leon itself, the guerrillas celebrated after the National Guard pulled out from a fortress overlooking the city. The Guard had abandoned their headquarters inside the city, but continued to pose a threat from their stronghold -- until they withdrew to help defend Managua. They pursued the Guard along the road from Leon to the capital.
The Sandinistas claimed several tanks had been captured from the fortress, and although fierce battle were reported on the road between Leon and Managua, the guerrillas appeared content for the time being to hold on to Leon.
About fifty National Guardsmen had been occupying the fort before their withdrawal. They'd been dropping mortar shells on leon for several weeks. According to the guerrilla radio, several heavy machine guns and two armoured vehicles had been left behind as well as the tanks -- which included an American Sherman tank dating from World War Two.
After they entered the fortress, the Sandinistas raised their own flag above Leon. And their broadcasts -- from the cities of Leon and Matagalpa -- claimed that President Somoza's forces had already been defeated.
The Sandinistas said they had rejected the United State peace formula because it proposed that a senior Nicaraguan army officer should from part of a provisional government.
According to the guerrillas, four women and three children were killed in Leon when the National Guard opened fire on a house during their retreat. The women and children had taken refuge in the house from mortar shells falling on the city. The Sandinistas also claimed that one women had been raped.
As the residents of Leon buried their dead, the guerrillas were reported to be making gains in other parts of their country. In Matagalpa more than twenty government troops surrendered after holding out for three days inside the cathedral. And in northern Nicaragua, the Sandinistas seized the country's largest power station.