The leftist gerrillas holding at least 15 ambassadors and about 65 other hostages in the embassy of the Dominican Republic released 10 women, two wounded men and a young boy to the Colombian Red Cross today.
Earlier, the Red Cross volunteers carried out the corpse of the one guerrilla killed during yesterday's takeover, a 20-year-old student dressed in green and white jogging clothes.
"Commander No. 1," leader of the estimated 11 M19 guerrillas inside the embassy, said in a telephone interview that five additional female hostages would be released when the government agreed to alow a neurosurgeon to examine a female guerrilla wounded during the bloody attack yesterday. Later, two neurosurgeons entered the embassy, and the guerrillas promised to release the five in the morning.
The guerrilla leader, who used only his code name, also accused the Colombian government of being stubborn because it refused to provide blankets, food and medicine until about 4:30 p.m. today.
Uruguayan Ambassador Fernando Gomez Fyns, one of the hostages, told a Colombian journalist by phone that the guerrillas had been "very cordial, very respectful" toward the ambassadors.
Among them is Ambassador Diego C. Asencio of the United States, who spoke with American diplomats here this morning by phone and said he was in good health and good spirits.
According to a Colombian government communique, the guerrillas are demanding that forces surrounding the embassy be withdrawn, that 311 political prisoners in Colombian jails be freed, that a ransom totaling $50 million be paid by the countries whose diplomats are being held hostage and that the guerrillas and political prisoners be provided safe passage out of Colombia.
In addition, the guerrillas demanded a "dialogue" with the Colombian government and publication of an M19 manifesto in all of the principal newspapers of countries whose diplomats are being held.
According to Rene Castillo, Ambassador Asencio's chief bodyguard, the countries whose ambassadors are being held include the United States, Uruguay, the Dominican Republic, Italy, Egypt, Israel, Costa Rica, Austria, Bolivia, Haiti, Switzerland, Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela and the Vatican (its papal nuncio). A Colombian communique last night also included the ambassadors of Guatemala and El Salvador, making a possible total of 17. The charge d'affaires of Paraguay is also among the hostages.
Ambassador Asencio was accompanied to the reception at the Dominican Embassy by two Colombian bodyguards, one of whom was wounded outside during the takeover and hospitalized. Castillo arrived shortly afterward and has been outside the building since.
Some of the women released were wives of ambassadors.
[One of the women freed, asking that her name not be used, described for United Press International the scene just before she left: "There was a loud noise at the back door about 3 p.m. and the guerrillas thought the police might have gotten in. The guerrillas, who each carried three grenades besides pistols and submachine guns, gave the order to set off the grenades if they found the residence was being invaded. They grabbed the American and Dominican ambassadors and made them lead the way through the residence until they found no one had gotten in."]
The Dominican Republic purchased the building from one-time director Gustavo Rojas Pinilla about 20 years ago. Rojas had built it as his personal residence. The electoral defeat of the aging populist in 1970 gave the guerrilla group that seized the embassy its name.
M19 stands for the April 19 Movement, the date of the 1970 presidential election that Rojas Pinilla lost by what many here believe was vote-counting fraud. While a populist, he was not a socialist. He provided social programs for the poor that won him a large following as a dictator in the 1950s and afterward.He died in 1975. His daughter, Maria Eugenia, was defeated in 1974 presidential elections.
The M19, an urban guerrilla group styled after Uruguay's Tupamaros and Argentina's Montoperos, is believed to be composed of about 400 students and other middle-class intellectuals -- decidedly further to the left than Rojas Pinilla ever was.
The government here beleived it had vitually eliminated the group last year after a roundup of suspected activists, at least 200 of them among the 311 political prisoners the guerrillas now seek to free.
In an interview Monday, Defense Minister Luis Carlos Camacho Leyva said he believed the situation with respect to the M19 "has changed fundamentally in the government's favor." Camacho Leyva's assessment also was shared by the U.S. Embassy.
Nonetheless, the 12 guerrillas who originally seized the embassy yesterday did so with a precision and cunning that demonstrated that they are still capable of sophisticated operations.
Dressed alike in green-and-white jogging suits, the guerrillas had appeared to be members of a sports team from the National University a block away. Each carried a sack containing not athletic equipment but guns and explosives.
The guerrillas obviously calculated that many of Bogota's most important ambassadors would be at the Dominican national day reception and struck shortly after noon when the embassy was filled with guests.
While there are some similarities with the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran last November, there appear to be important differences so far in the way the hostages have been treated here. Ambassadors Asencio and Gomez repeated that they were free to move around inside the embassy, were not blindfolded and were even allowed to make and receive calls -- as long as they spoke only in Spanish so the guerrillas could understand what they were saying.
Nevertheless, the situation remained tense and there were no negotiations known to have occurred today or to be scheduled. Last night, a negotiator was allowed inside the embassy to talk with the guerrillas and report their demands to President Julio Cesar Turbay Ayala.
The government refused to allow the guerrillas to hold a press conference they had scheduled for this morning and stopped radio stations here from broadcasting anything about the situation other than official government statements.
The Red Cross delivered food, medicine, blankets and other supplies that the guerrillas had requested indicating that for the moment both they and the government expect the siege to continue beyond a deadline originaly set by the guerrillas for 10 p.m. tonight. A Colombian official said the guerrillas had lifted that cutoff.