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Man Who Claims To Be Guerrilla Deserter Says Rebels Rest At U.N. Camps

September 10, 1985

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) _ Armed leftist guerrillas from El Salvador rest and recuperate at U.N. refugee camps in Honduras and use the agency to get refugee documentation, a man who claims to be a guerrilla deserter said Monday.

Jose Antonio Chicas Sanchez, 20, told reporters that the Popular Revolutionary Army forcibly inducted him March 3 and he was trained at a rebel ″military school″ commanded by a Nicaraguan. He said he deserted two months later ″because I didn’t want to fight.″

The Popular Revolutionary Army is one of five factions fighting to overthrow the U.S.-backed government of El Salvador, which borders Honduras on the west.

Chicas said he fled to the Callejones refugee camp, about two miles from the border with El Salvador, to be with his wife, a refugee in the camp.

But Chicas said guerrilla commanders in the camp discovered he was a deserter and held him captive for three months. He did not explain how or when he escaped, but said he went to authorities and identified six rebel leaders who lived at the camp.

Reports differ as to what happened Aug. 29 when Chicas returned to the camp with Honduran troops. Refugees at the camp have been reported as saying that about 100 soldiers began beating the refugees with rifle butts and opened fire on them, killing a 2-month-old baby and a man.

The military said the man grabbed a soldier’s rifle and wounded him in the leg, then was gunned down by another soldier, and that refugees stoned the soldiers when they marched into the camp.

Soldiers arrested 10 people, and Chicas said three were guerrilla commanders and another also was a guerrilla. He did not identify the other six.

He said 500 Salvadoran guerrillas are hiding in the six U.N. refugee camps about 100 miles west of Tegucigalpa, near the border.

Luise Druke, an official of the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, told The Associated Press after the news conference that there are only 500-600 men aged 15 to 50 in the camps.

She said it was ″not quite clear″ how Chicas concluded they were all guerrillas. The camps hold 9,000 refugees, she said.

Chicas said guerrillas visit the camps to rest from fighting in El Salvador, and receive refugee documents with the unwitting help of the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR.

″The guerrilla commanders at the camps talk with the UNHCR, and they are the ones who give the permission to the ones who come to rest there,″ Chicas said.

The guerrillas take medicine and cloth donated to the refugees by international relief agencies, he said. They send the medicine to the battlefield to care for wounded and use the cloth to make uniforms, Chicas said.

Salvadoran guerrillas have submachine guns, pistols and grenades hidden in the refugee camps, Chicas said.

Ms. Druke refused to comment on Chicas’ allegations, but said U.N. documentation of refugees is coordinated with Honduran immigration authorities.

U.S. Embassy press attache Arthur Skop said the United States has ″known for a considerable time about guerrilla presence in the camps. The only solution is to move the camps away from the conflictive zones.″

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