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Gunmen Seize Daughter of Duarte; 1 Killed

September 11, 1985|Associated Press

SAN SALVADOR — President Jose Napoleon Duarte's eldest daughter was kidnaped Tuesday by gunmen who killed one of her bodyguards and wounded another in a shootout, the presidential palace announced.

It said Ines Guadalupe Duarte Duran, 35, was seized during the gunfight by "a heavily armed group" of half a dozen men as she arrived for afternoon classes at the New San Salvador University.

The palace statement, read by Salvadoran Communications and Culture Minister Julio Rey Prendes at a news conference, said President Duarte, who has been ill and was working at home, was "very shaken but very firm" and was refusing to speculate on any negotiations that might take place with the kidnapers.

"Up to now we have not had any information from the kidnapers. The moment we do we'll be in contact with you and stay in contact with you," Rey Prendes told reporters.

Thousands of Abductions

Left-wing guerrillas, who have battled the U.S.-backed government for nearly six years, and right-wing death squads have been blamed for thousands of abductions and killings.

The official statement on the kidnaping followed earlier reports by witnesses.

Rey Prendes said that Duarte Duran, who owns a commercial radio station, was pulled from her car by about six kidnapers wearing civilian clothes and that she appeared uninjured to people who saw the abduction.

Witnesses said the kidnapers escaped down a steep embankment, but it is unknown whether Duarte Duran was dragged with them or taken to a getaway car.

An official at the presidential palace, Gertrudis Sandoval, identified the slain guard as Mauricio Alfredo Elena Palomares, the victim's driver. Rey Prendes did not identify the injured bodyguard. He said a third bodyguard was uninjured.

Troops and presidential security guards swarmed over the area on a main street on the west edge of the capital where the university is situated.

Students said the president's daughter was studying advertising and public relations. Her gray Toyota sedan remained parked in front of the building.

Trails of Blood

Soldiers followed trails of blood down the embankment into a gully where a captain said the attackers fled. However, Rey Prendes said the blood was from the wounded bodyguard who was trying to escape the gunfire.

"The government . . . condemns this abominable act which once again makes clear the absolute scorn for human rights, through the kidnaping of a woman and the assassination of a public servant," the government's statement said.

Duarte, leader of the centrist Christian Democratic Party, was inaugurated as president on June 1, 1984, after winning in a runoff election against Roberto D'Aubuisson, candidate of the conservative Arena party.

Maj. Salazar Brenes, Duarte's personal secretary, arrived at the scene shortly after the abduction, which took place about 3 p.m.

He appeared deeply worried, talked with officers for a few seconds and sped off in an armored van.

Duarte Duran is the oldest of the president's six children. She has three children and is divorced.

Owns Radio Station

She is the owner of Radio Liberty, a commercial radio station, and managed her father's campaigns in 1984.

Although no group took immediate responsibility for the kidnaping, a captain from the presidential security office, who would not give his name, said, "Certainly it was the guerrillas."

If so, it would be the most spectacular urban action by the rebels since rebel gunmen killed 13 people, including four off-duty U.S. Marines and two American businessmen, in an attack on outdoor restaurants here last June 19.

On Tuesday, students stood outside the gray, bleak university building where the kidnaping took place, and, like many other Salvadorans in this war-ravaged country, said they saw nothing.

"We threw ourselves on the floor when the shooting started," one said, adding that when the two- to three-minute gunfight was over, Duarte Duran was missing.

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