August 20, 2001

Nicaragua army says 2 rebel leaders killed

                 MANAGUA, Nicaragua (Reuters) -- Nicaragua's army said Monday that
                 two commanders of a rebel band roaming the remote Caribbean coast had
                 been found dead after battles with the military, their bodies decapitated in
                 an effort to hide their identities.

                 The army said in a communique that the two men likely died with five other
                 rebels in battles last week around Siuna, a rough-and-tumble mining town 250
                 miles northeast of Managua. The bodies of Laureano Rivera and Noel Lagos had
                 been decapitated, presumably by rebel comrades, and were identified through
                 fingerprints, officials said.

                 The two were believed to be leaders of the Andrew Castro United Front
                 (FUAC), one of the last armed rebel groups in Nicaragua to disarm in 1997.

                 Some FUAC members refused to lay down their weapons and two years later
                 kidnapped a Canadian mining engineer and Nicaraguan soldier, holding them for
                 a month. Roving armed members have been suspected in other violent attacks in
                 the region.

                 The FUAC was one of a series of left-wing and right-wing insurgent bands that
                 continued to carry arms after the 1990 end of the civil war between the former
                 Soviet-backed Sandinista government and the U.S.-backed Contra insurgents.

                 While the FUAC subscribed to Sandinista ideals and included former Sandinista
                 soldiers, it had distanced itself from the party.

                 President Arnoldo Aleman has accused the opposition Sandinistas of supporting
                 the FUAC recently as a means of pressuring the population to support former
                 Sandinista President Daniel Ortega in the November presidential election.

                   Copyright 2001 Reuters.