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The exiled Salvadoran Human Rights Commission Thursday said its...

By MARK FAZLOLLAH

MEXICO CITY -- The exiled Salvadoran Human Rights Commission Thursday said its president was slain in El Salvador while she was gathering evidence on 'indiscriminate massacres' in a war zone.

In a full-page advertisement in Mexico City's Uno Mas Uno newspaper, the commission denied Salvadoran army charges that Marianella Garcia Villas, 34, was leading a platoon of rebels when she was killed Sunday near the city of Suchitoto, 32 miles north of San Salvador.

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The army said the people with whom the commission president was traveling ambushed an army patrol. Soldiers, the army said, fought back and killed Ms. Garcia Villas and 29 other suspected rebels, including a black man identified only as a foreigner.

It said Ms. Garcia Villas was carrying a camera when she was killed. One soldier also died in the shootout, the army said.

The commission said Ms. Garcia Villas' 'work was strictly humanitarian, recognized at a national and international level.

'Our colleague was with a group of more than 30 civilians going toward the refuge of Suchitoto,' it said.

The Human Rights Commission, which moved its headquarters to Mexico City after several of its members were killed by rightists in 1979, says it is 'without political alignment.' Several of its leaders, however, have expressed sympathy for the rebels.

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'At the time of the murder, (Ms. Garcia Villas) was working on research and compiling proof about the use of chemical substances against civilians, such as white phosphorus, scorched earth operations and indiscriminate massacres by the Salvadoran army,' the commission said.

White phosophorus rockets are used by U.S.-supplied spotter planes to mark bombing sites but is not generally considered an anti-personnel weapon, according to military specialists.

In Geneva, Switzerland, the World Council of Churches said Ms. Garcia Villas 'was brutally assassinated while engaged in the admirable work of investigating the alleged use of napalm and chemical weapons in the area. The World Council of Churches expressed its deep sorrow and indignation.'

In Norway, leaders of all parlimentary parties except the small right-wing Progressive Party, signed a statement urging an immediate end to 'all foreign support to the authorities in El Salvador.'

'It is with dismay we have received information that Marianella Garcia Villas was killed by soldiers from the national army,' wrote six parliamentary leaders, including Jo Benkow of the ruling Conservative Party.

'All who support the struggle for human rights must, regardless of political views, demand that El Salvador's army and government be held to account for this outrage.'

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The Salvadoran Human Rights Commission and other human rights groups repeatedly have charged soldiers indiscriminately kill peasants living in guerrilla-controlled zones in an effort to dry up the support for the rebels.

It said that since an Oct. 15, 1979 army coup, it recorded reports of 43,337 'murders' and 3,900 people taken prisoner or listed as missing.

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