Details of a secret Peruvian plan to rescue the 72 hostages being held at the Japanese Embassy residence in Lima emerged Sunday as talks to find a peaceful solution to the crisis continued.
Military and police officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed a report in a local newspaper that Peruvian military intelligence has drafted a plan to storm the Japanese residence if talks between the government and guerrillas falter.
But the officials noted that preparing a military solution was a routine response to a hostage situation and that they had not been given approval carry out the plan.
Furthermore, the officials said they were hopeful that the crisis could be resolved without force, which they said would be used only if the guerrillas kill a hostage or if one dies from health problems.
“The existence of a military plan to free the hostages should not come as a surprise,” said an official of the anti-terrorist police. “In fact, the public should be worried if we did not have one.”
Under the rescue plan as detailed in the Lima newspaper La Republica, commandos from Peru and the United States would need seven minutes to overcome the heavily-armed Tupac Amaru guerrillas, who seized the residence during a reception on Dec. 17.
The attack would take place at night and could result in heavy casualties, with only one quarter of the hostages surviving, according to the plan.
Law enforcement officials said Sunday that the plan had been devised by Peruvian army intelligence earlier this month and submitted to President Alberto Fujimori, who has said that he prefers a nonviolent end to the crisis but has not ruled out the use of force.
Foreign diplomats who have been closely monitoring the crisis said they believed the Peruvian government was floating details of the military rescue to increase pressure on the guerrillas to drop their central demand: that the government release their jailed comrades.
Fujimori has said no prisoners will ever be exchanged for the release of the hostages, who include his brother, Pedro, who is the Peruvian foreign minister, the Japanese and Bolivian ambassadors to Peru and other Japanese and Peruvian diplomats and businessmen.
Peru’s security forces were greatly embarrassed by the takeover of the Japanese ambassador’s residence and they have been pressing Fujimori to allow them to retake it. But the estimated high casualties resulting from an attack may argue strongly against one.
According to the military plan, between 80 and 90 people would probably die in an assault, including 75 percent of the hostages, 95 percent of the guerrillas, and about 20 commandos.
Under the plan, commandos would descend upon the Japanese residence using ropes from a helicopter, amid the chaos of loud military music and the sounds of helicopters and airplanes projected from speakers that have already been set up near the compound.
The objective of each commando would be to rescue as many hostages as possible while “neutralizing” the guerrillas, who are said to have explosives taped to their bodies.
U.S. participation in the assault is crucial, according to the plan, which said that the commandos would come from the Peruvian army’s School of Commandos and the U.S. Southern Command, based in Panama.
A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Lima said Sunday that at the start of the crisis, the State Department offered any resources that would be useful.
“So far, Peru has not responded to that offer, and it has not been withdrawn,” the spokesman said.