There was little indication of heavy combat or of a major deployment of Sandinista combat forces in this Nicaraguan border town, about 15 miles from the Honduran village of Cifuentes, where U.S. helicopters reportedly are ferrying Honduran troops following reports of a major incursion by Nicaraguan forces.
On the road between the towns of Ocotal and Jalapa there were several trucks carrying Sandinista soldiers, but no major convoys. There were no restrictions on travel on the main roads. Civilians went about their usual business with no sense of tension.
U.S. officials have charged that 1,500 Nicaraguan troops entered Honduras Sunday and Monday to battle anti-Sandinista rebels known as contras, or counterrevolutionaries, based there.
Sandinista Army 1st Lt. Roger Aguirre, regional commander in Jalapa, said that in the past few weeks about 3,000 Sandinista militia forces have been put on active duty, but that no new regular Army troops were deployed into the town. He said that during the same period, about 300 rebels had infiltrated into the Jalapa region from Honduras.
Nicaraguan Army chief of staff Joaquin Cuadra said yesterday that the Army has mobilized "many thousands of men near the border" because of new attacks by the contras. He denied that any of his troops had crossed the border, however.
Aguirre reported only two recent battles in his entire region, which he said extends along about 40 miles of the Nicaraguan-Honduran border. He said two Sandinista soldiers were killed in the battles on March 11 and 12 near the town of Santa Clara, about 18 miles from the border.