WASHINGTON — Nicaragua's Contras denied responsibility Wednesday for the ambush of a civilian ferryboat in southeastern Nicaragua in which two passengers were killed and 27 injured, including a New York clergyman.
A spokesman for the U.S.-backed rebels, Bosco Matamoros, said no Contra units were in the area when the attack took place Tuesday and suggested that troops of the Sandinista government might have attacked the ferry to create anti-Contra propaganda.
"We don't have any unit in that area," Matamoros said. "That's an area of strategic importance to the Sandinistas which is totally under their control. If there had been any resistance unit in that area it would have been easily detected and annihilated.
"Who benefits politically from this tragedy?" he added. "The Sandinistas."
Asked whether he was accusing the Sandinistas of attacking the ferry, Matamoros said: "We don't have any evidence which could indicate that the Sandinistas were responsible for this incident. But we can confirm that we do not have any units in that area."
Witnesses to the incident had said the attackers appeared to be Contras. They said Sandinista troops aboard the boat exchanged fire with the attackers, who fired from the bank of the Escondido River.
The Contras have ambushed ferries along the river, the main transport route between central Nicaragua and the Caribbean port of Bluefields, several times in the past.
Among the wounded was the Rev. Lucius Walker, 59, of Brooklyn's First Salvation Baptist Church.