PANAMA CITY, Panama — More than 70 wounded Salvadoran rebels, many missing arms and legs, arrivedhere today as part of the exchange agreement that secured the release of the kidnaped daughter of El Salvador's president.
Panamanian military sources said the leftist guerrillas, who are fighting the government of Jose Napoleon Duarte, would fly to Cuba later in the day.
The 73 wounded guerrillas, who had been treated in guerrilla hospitals throughout El Salvador, were allowed to leave the country after the rebels and Duarte's government reached agreement on an exchange involving a total of 118 wounded rebels and political prisoners and 38 local officials kidnaped by the guerrillas. (Story, Page 5.)
The rebels arrived at an air force base outside Panama City at 2:05 a.m. aboard a commercial jetliner requisitioned by the Panamanian military. At least two guerrillas were carried in on stretchers, and many were missing limbs or showed signs of other serious injuries.
One of the wounded, 13-year-old Oscar Perez, said he lost an arm in a mortar attack. But he said he would return to El Salvador as soon as he is well.
"I have companions and friends there and I'm going back for the revolution too," said the youth, who said he became a guerrilla at age 10.
Nidia Diaz, a guerrilla commander who participated in inconclusive peace talks with Duarte's government last year, accompanied the wounded.
She is considered the most important of the 22 political prisoners freed Thursday from Salvadoran jails in exchange for Ines Guadalupe Duarte Duran, 35.
Duarte Duran was released Thursday along with a friend who was kidnaped with her on Sept. 10 in San Salvador.
"The political and military victory that has taken place today with the liberation of 22 political prisoners and the fact that 96 comrades who were wounded . . . can leave to be cured is a great victory for us," said Diaz, 32.
Twenty-three other wounded guerrillas were reported to be flying to Mexico City from El Salvador. Diaz said 18 of the released political prisoners returned to rebel-held territory to continue their fight against the government.