May 28, 2000

Nicaraguan military beefs up presence in guerrilla zone

                  MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) -- Nicaraguan will send troops to its northern
                  Atlantic region where a leftist paramilitary group is believed to have killed more
                  than 40 people in recent months.

                  Col. Cesar Delgadillo, head of military operations, said more than 300 soldiers
                  and federal police will be sent to the region, about 200 miles (320 kilometers)
                  northeast of Managua, to combat the violence believed to be carried out by
                  Andres Castro United Front, a group of ex-Sandanista soldiers.

                  "We are going to try to bring order back to the zone," Delgadillo said.

                  He did not say when the troops would be sent.

                  The group of ex-Sandinista soldiers was one of several groups of former
                  combatants that formed to demand government aid in the aftermath of
                  Nicaragua's Contra war in the 1980s. The group officially disarmed in 1997
                  under an agreement with the government, but police say some members kept
                  their weapons and turned to crime.

                  Delgadillo said the group is tied to drug trafficking.

                  Two weeks ago, gunmen firing assault rifles killed 11 adult members of a single
                  family in the area and then burned their home, police said. A day earlier, three
                  soldiers were killed in an ambush in the same general area.

                  Last month, gunmen ambushed a police vehicle, killing five people. Two days
                  earlier, a government representative escaped injury when soldiers shielded him
                  from gunmen.