Lima, 18 December 1996 (RFE/RL) - An explosion was heard today inside the residence of the Japanese ambassador in the Peruvian capital of Lima, where leftist rebels are holding some 200 diplomats and government officials hostage.
Details are sketchy. Sporadic gunfire also was heard from inside the compound on live television reports from the scene.
Earlier, a guerrilla who identified himself as Comandante Mejia Huerta said the hostage takers are demanding the "liberation of all of our comrades, who are being mistreated and tortured in the dungeons of the various prisons."
The guerrillas also are demanding to meet with Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, the government's ombudsman and a priest familiar with Peru's prison conditions. They did not announce a deadline for their demands.
The guerrillas are holding numerous ambassadors, including the Bulgarian ambassador, the Japanese ambassador, the South Korean ambassador, the Czech ambassador and Poland's Charge D'affairs, Wojciech Tomaszewski.
The rebels from the Tupac Amaru movement took over the ambassador's house as a party began last night, setting off explosions and exchanging gunfire with police for almost an hour. Two hostages and a rebel were wounded.
In the hours after the assault, the rebels released about 170 hostages, mostly women and the elderly. Police said the 23 guerrillas, including three women, slipped through the compound's security by posing as waiters.
The Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, which draws its ideology from Fidel Castro's uban revolutionaries, took up arms in 1984. Many leaders of the Tupac Amaru -- which is smaller than Peru's Maoist Shining Path movement -- are in jail.