El Salvador's U.S.-backed army transferred two more controversial Salvadoran colonels, including the founder of the 'Ronald Reagan Battalion,' from key command posts while the government formed a special unit to investigate cases involving right-wing death squads.
In another development, an explosion ripped through a news conference called by Nicaraguan rebel leader Eden Pastora, injuring him and 27 others and killing three people in an apparent assassination attempt, authorities said today.
No one claimed responsibility for the Wednesday night attack but Pastora's followers blamed the CIA and Costa Rica accused the Sandinista government. Dissidents in his rebel group also were angered by his leadership.
One victim was an American journalist identified as Linda Frazier of Oregon, a reporter for the San Jose, Costa Rica, English Language weekly newspaper, the Tico Times, a Red Cross spokesman said.
Pastora, who rose to fame as 'Commander Zero' during Nicaragua's 1979 revolution but later split with the leftist regime over its Marxist drift, was wounded in the explosion behind rebel lines in Nicaraguan territory.
There were conflicting reports over the extent of his injuries and his whereabouts.
Costa Rican authorities and the Red Cross said the injured included Susan Morgan, a British journalist who works for Newsweek magazine, and Costa Ricans Gilberto Lopez Dicastro, of Agence France Presse, and William Cespedes, of United Press International.
Pastora is the head of the Costa Rica-based Democratic Revolutionary Alliance, ARDE, which is fighting to overthrow the leftist Nicaraguan government.
Radio Reloj, a commercial radio station in San Jose, quoted Edmundo Solano, director of Public Security, saying that the explosion occurred at a news conference Pastora called near La Penca, a hamlet in southern Nicaragua almost 100 miles north of San Jose.
In San Salvador, military sources said Wednesday the transferred colonels received diplomatic posts abroad.
One of the officers, Col. Reynaldo Lopez Nuila, head of the national police, would be named as deputy defense minister, military sources said. They said the other officer is Lt. Col. Jorge Adalberto Cruz, commander of embattled Morazan province, who will be sent to the War College in Washington.
Under Lopez Nuila, the police force has repeatedly faced allegations of human rights abuses, and the unit's intelligence chief was removed last December under pressure from the United States.
Cruz, an activist in the far-right Republican Nationalist Alliance of defeated presidential hopeful Roberto d'Aubuisson, had infuriated some members of the high command this month by naming his unit the 'Ronald Reagan Battalion' as a tribute to the president.
El Salvador's provisional president, Alvaro Magana, said in a telephone interview Wednesday that the government's investigations unit will be independent and 'responsible directly to the president.' Magana is scheduled to turn over the presidency to Jose Napoleon Duarte on Friday.
Six to eight Salvadorans assigned to the investigations unit received FBI training in Puerto Rico and the United States. They are part of an ongoing program to train 18 to 20 Salvadorans in FBI crime-fighting tactics, said U.S. Embassy spokesman Donald Hamilton.
In Nicaragua, the leftist Sandinista government extended the state of emergency decree until the July 19 celebration of the fifth anniversary of the revolution, the state radio said.
La Voz de Nicaragua radio said the emergency law, which censors the media and restricts political meetings, would end in late July, 15 weeks before the Nov. 4 elections for president, vice president and constituent assembly representatives.