The oldest daughter of President Jose Napoleon Duarte of El Salvador was kidnaped today by gunmen who killed her driver and seriously wounded one of her bodyguards.
Ines Guadelupe Duarte Duran, 35, apparently was not wounded in the attack, which occurred as she was arriving for a regular class in communications at the University of New San Salvador in the center of city, according to an official statement from Duarte. A second bodyguard escaped unhurt, according to Julio Rey Prendes, Duarte's minister of communications.
The statement said no group has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnaping.
Duarte immediately canceled plans for a visit to the United States that was scheduled to begin Sept. 20.
"We condemn this horrible act that shows an absolute disregard for human rights," the statement said. "We repeat our will to continue the struggle by rational and humane methods." He was referring to his government's battle against leftist guerrillas seeking to overthrow it.
[In Washington, State Department spokesman Bruce Ammerman said, "The U.S. Embassy in San Salvador has offered to be of any assistance that they can be to the government of El Salvador in this case. Obviously, we deplore this kidnaping."]
Persons close to Duarte said there was little doubt the attack was the work of leftist guerrillas who pledged several months ago to bring their 5 1/2-year-old war against the Duarte government into the cities. It follows by nearly three months the June 19 attack at sidewalk cafes here that killed 13 persons, including four U.S. marines and two other U.S. citizens.
Rey Prendes confirmed at a news conference that the Duarte family frequently had received death threats, but had discounted them.
"When people act in this manner, they never send threats, they act," Rey Prendes said. "One cannot live totally closed up. One must go out, continue working, continue studying."
Duarte also had received numerous threats from right-wing death squads which have been blamed for many kidnapings and murders here. These groups often have described Duarte as a communist because of his policies of social and economic reform.
Rey Prendes said Duarte had been suffering from a mild cold and had been taking "a kind of vacation" when the attack occurred.
Duarte's statement said that his daughter, the mother of three who was divorced a year ago, had been studying communications science at the small college. She was "working and studying, like the great majority of Salvadoran women, to get ahead," it said.
Witnesses told local radio stations that six to eight armed men, dressed in civilian clothes, leaped from a minivan and riddled the front of Ines Duarte's car with bullets, killing the driver and wounding one bodyguard. They then dragged the woman from the car and shoved her into the van, the witnesses said.
A trail of blood led from the scene of the attack into a nearby gully, witnesses said. Rey Prendes said the blood came from the wounded bodyguard. He said it appeared that none of the attackers was wounded.
Rey Prendes, speaking for Duarte, refused to speculate on whether the president would negotiate with kidnapers over any future demands. He implored journalists and the public to provide all available information.
Former major Roberto D'Aubuisson, head of the far-right Nationalist Republican Alliance who was defeated by Duarte for the presidency in May, said in a radio interview that he deplored the attack and gave his "strong support" to the Duarte family. "All the Salvadoran people condemn such acts of terrorism," he said.
Ines Duarte is the oldest of Duarte's three daughters and three sons. She is the manager of Radio Liberty, a station run by her father's Christian Democratic Party and managed her father's presidential campaign.