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Nicaraguan Rebel Leader Hurt but Safe : 'Commander Zero' Said Back in Combat After Copter Crash

July 25, 1985|From Times Wire Services

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — Anti-Sandinista rebel chief Eden Pastora is injured but safe in a section of southern Nicaragua occupied by his troops after a helicopter crash in Costa Rica, a leader of his Democratic Revolutionary Alliance said today.

Jose Davila, a member of the alliance's directorate, told the Associated Press that Pastora is "exhausted and with serious injuries in the chest and legs, but safe."

Davila had reported Pastora missing Wednesday. (Story, Page 12.) There have been conflicting reports on the condition and whereabouts of the Nicaraguan rebel known familiarly as "Commander Zero."

Nicaraguan guerrilla spokesman Carlos Prado told Reuters news service that the 49-year-old Pastora, a former hero of Nicaragua's revolution, was "battered and so on, but not actually injured" in the crash Tuesday. Prado said two pilots with Pastora are also alive.

Returned to Combat

United Press International quoted Davila as saying Pastora has recovered from minor back and rib bruises and returned to combat in southern Nicaragua.

There was no indication what caused the crash of the four-seater Hughes 500 helicopter. Nicaragua's left-wing government, which Pastora is fighting, did not claim to have shot it down.

Costa Rican police found the craft Wednesday about 12 miles from the Nicaraguan border. It was badly damaged but with no bullet holes and no sign of the occupants, causing a mystery over Pastora's whereabouts until today.

Prado said Pastora and the two pilots managed to reach the borderline San Juan River, about 55 miles north of San Jose, early this morning but he did not say how they got there.

At the border, Pastora made contact with his men, who took him to a camp inside Nicaragua, Prado said.

Camp in Secure Location

Davila said he received the information on Pastora's condition this morning from the jungle camp. He declined to say where the camp is located but said it is in a secure location with good protection.

Pastora was a leader of the revolution that brought the leftist Sandinista Front to power in Nicaragua in July, 1979, but he broke with the Managua government in 1981 over its Marxist policies.

On Wednesday, Cmdr. Eduardo Sam, a leader of Pastora's alliance, said in Union City, N.J., that Pastora's helicopter had mechanical problems after 30 minutes of flying, lost direction when it tried to return and crashed about four miles from the Nicaraguan border.

Such accidents are common because many of the rebels' helicopters are in poor condition, Sam said. He said he is in the United States recuperating from a similar crash in February and raising money for the rebels.

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