THE DAY AFTER
APRIL 23, 1997
The NewsHour analyzes the mission of Peruvian army commandos the day after they raided the Japanese embassy in Lima. The force brought out alive 71 of 72 hostages held since December. A background report is followed by a panel discussion.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Two more perspectives now. They come from Michael Radu, an associate scholar at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a Philadelphia-based think tank.He has written several books on revolutionary movements in Latin America, including Peru. And Bob Taubert, a veteran FBI agent involved in training Peruvian police in special operations.
A RealAudio version of tonight's backgrounder is available.
A RealAudio version of tonight's interview with the U.S. Ambassador to Peru is available.
A RealAudio version of tonight's discussion with a panel of experts is available.
April 23, 1997:
A background report on the Japanese embassy seige in Peru.
February 3, 1997:
A newsmaker interview with Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori.
January 27, 1997:
Charlayne Hunter-Gault gets an update on the hostage situation from NPR reporter Jonathan Miller.
January 2, 1997:
Jim Lehrer speaks with journalist Jonathan Miller, reporting live from Peru.
December 23, 1996:
Marxist rebels released 225 hostages from the Japanese ambassador's residence in a "good will" Christmas gesture.
December 19, 1996:
In a stunning attack, a band of Peruvian rebels stormed the Japanese embassy in Lima holding 490 hostage.
And starting with you, Mr. Taubert, you were involved in the training of the team that laid siege to the residence at the embassy compound. Who was involved in the training that you did, and where did it take place?
BOB TAUBERT, Former FBI Agent: There were several what they call experts involved in the training. I'm not at liberty to tell you where the training took place in the United States, but it was in this country.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: And who was involved? We heard that the army, the Navy, and the police were involved in the siege. Did you train all of them?
BOB TAUBERT: No. It was a combined operation, but we were only responsible for training the police.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Training the police, and just what--when did this start?
BOB TAUBERT: Well, the program has been in effect for several years now.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: But the training--excuse me--the training of the unit.
BOB TAUBERT: Well, the training of the unit first started in 1996. One group was in ‘96, and the second group was trained in 1997.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: And this training commenced with--this was physically because of the hostage situation?
BOB TAUBERT: No. The occurrence of the situation in Peru was just a coincidence. As a matter of fact the second group was in there last week of training, and the situation occurred. And Friday night, they graduated; Saturday morning they flew out, and went directly to the operation.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Right. And the majority--the majority of the people involved in this siege were military, or was it--could you tell?
BOB TAUBERT: Quite possibly third to a half. You couldn't tell. They were all wearing a common uniform. But on all likelihood, the primary responsibility was the police.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: What in your training prepared them for this siege?
BOB TAUBERT: Well, we trained them in typical skills that are required of a hostage rescue unit, or a SWAT unit, and these skills center around, you know, firearms training, the precise use of fire, planning, tactics, the ability to carry on coordinated and combined operations. And we train them in various assault options, such as the stronghold option, or the assault of a building or a fixed installation, which occurred in Peru.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: What is the stronghold option?
BOB TAUBERT: We call it a stronghold option. What it is, is usually an assault against a building that has become a stronghold of the terrorists.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: And we saw first--I think this was the sequence of events--we saw some kind of explosions taking place. Then we heard gunfire. Then we heard that there were soldiers, or, you know, people, inside the building. Help us understand that sequence.
BOB TAUBERT: Well, the elements involved in a hostage rescue that we observed--surprise, speed, and control, violence, and action--and what they try and do with reactive intelligence or on-scene intelligence, is to pinpoint the location of the hostages and the terrorists, so that when they effect entry, whether it's mechanical through say sledgehammers, battering rams, or vis explosives, they want to be as close as possible to the hot spots in the embassy so they can get to the hostages as quickly as possible.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: And this bomb--the bomb thing, does that involve any special kind of paralyzing materials?
BOB TAUBERT: Well, the explosive reaching is highly specialized training. We do not give that training, per se. Our program now has been changed to include that. They get exposed to it in our training, but they--the ability to use explosives is a highly refined and technical capability which requires a great deal of skill.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Mr. Radu, listening to all of this, how risky does it sound to you?
MICHAEL RADU, Foreign Policy Research Institute: Well, I think that the government took a very high risk in engaging in this operation, but they trained for it very well, and a lot of people, including some Peruvians who follow closely the military, were pleasantly surprised, and it was a very professional operation, very high risk but it was worth it.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: You mean, pleasantly surprised--you mean, the military hasn't been up to this kind of thing?
MICHAEL RADU: Well, the military didn't have any kind of experience that we know of in this kind of thing, particularly of this magnitude, and in addition, it was combined operation in which the military--in other words, the army--but also the navy and the air force and the police--cooperated, and that's a difficulty in any kind of environment. And we have our own problems with that type of combination in Grenada and elsewhere.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Right.
MICHAEL RADU: So it worked very well, but that is generally the exception of the rule.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: How much do you think the fact that the--well, tell me a little bit about the kind of people they were assaulting and how much that might explain how easily the operation went off. I mean, they played soccer every day at the same time. I mean, they were--how sophisticated could they have been?
MICHAEL RADU: Well, there are two kinds of people, or two types of people inside--as far as we know--three or four leaders who were in their thirties or forties, with experience, some of them were already involved in assassinations and kidnapings before that--and then the large majority who were basically teenagers from the countryside--and probably recruited only at the beginning of last year--so while they did receive military training, their ideological indoctrination was probably less than complete, so they may have been less prepared to die than the leaders. And hesitation--even if it's a fraction of a second in these kind of circumstances--can lead to death, which is what happened.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Mr. Taubert, was death inevitable in this situation?
BOB TAUBERT: No, it wasn't inevitable. We trained the police to apprehend the terrorists, if possible. What happens when you make an entry, a dynamic entry, which is a very rapid entry into a very dangerous area, is we key on weapons and aggressive action. We're looking at the hands to see whether or not the individual is armed. As we come into the crisis site, they're announcing themselves, "Police, police, get down, down on the floor," and if anyone makes an aggressive action or picks up a weapon, makes eye contact with them, they're going to use deadly force if it's appropriate. If it is not appropriate, they'd individually physically handle it.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: So in this case all of the rebels are dead. What does that tell you?
BOB TAUBERT: Well, the rebels made a statement earlier that they would rather die than surrender, and they demonstrated their propensity for violence when they killed some of the security personnel during the initial takeover.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Although Mr. Radu just said that it was his belief that many of those inside were young people who just weren't prepared to die.
BOB TAUBERT: Well, quite possibly, but I understand they were heavily armed; that they were in contact via short wave radio with other personnel from their group; and it doesn't take a great deal of skill to point a gun and pull the trigger when you're channelized, when you're coming through a hallway or a doorway.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Right. Speaking of the contact, I mean, could this operation have been pulled off without contact inside, and, if not, how do you--how do you explain that? How--did you teach that, how to make contact with the inside? Were there listening devices, indeed? We heard the ambassador say the U.S. had offered listening devices but he wasn't sure. What's your sense of that?
BOB TAUBERT: Well, intelligence, on-scene reactive intelligence is critical. Otherwise, you're functioning in the dark with blinders on. The Peruvians may well have this organic capability and really didn't need our assistance. They're involved in a program with drug enforcement, Operation Snow Cap, and quite possibly they acquired the equipment and skills over the years of that activity.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: But they had to have some inside contact, right? I mean, some contact went on in some way over this period of time, correct, to send messages about how soon the assault was happening; that it was being planned?
BOB TAUBERT: Quite possibly some type of code was worked out ahead of time with those officials who had--were, you know, likely to be kidnaped or possibly kidnaped. I'm not sure. But to me, contacting the hostages ahead is inadvisable and extremely risky. This thing lasted over four months. There was a good possibility that the Stockholm Syndrome could have taken effect, where the--
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: That is, identifying with the--
BOB TAUBERT: Exactly. The captors identify with their captives, and could have inadvertently tipped them off.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Captors. But I mean, even--what did he say--the ambassador said something like three minutes or somewhere like that.
BOB TAUBERT: Yeah. It was extraordinary because if this was done, they were completely familiar with the hostages inside, and obviously they knew these people very well, so they felt that the risk was worthwhile.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Briefly, Mr. Radu, what does this do to the rebel movement, the Tupac Amaru group?
MICHAEL RADU: Well--
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: In general.
MICHAEL RADU: --that group was moribund before the December takeover of the residence.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Moribund?
MICHAEL RADU: Yes. Now is buried. The MRTA is history. They may have anywhere between a hundred or a hundred and fifty members now hanging around in the central jungles, but they are without leadership. Cerpa Castolina, the leader of this group in the residence, was the last historic leader of the movement alive or free and inside Peru, so they are dead. They are finished.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: And the prisoners?
MICHAEL RADU: Well, the prisoners will complete their terms, so at least they'll be in jail, and perhaps in slightly better conditions, at least as long as President Fujimori is in power.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: That was one of the demands and one that they said they would meet.
MICHAEL RADU: Yes.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: To improve the conditions in the prisons.
MICHAEL RADU: Well, I don't think they were talking as much about improving the conditions as much as freeing the leaders.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Right. But that was a definite "no."
MICHAEL RADU: Absolutely. And that was ultimately the main reason why it came to this, and I would add something to what Mr. Taubert said before.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Just briefly.
MICHAEL RADU: Explaining the contact between hostages and the outside and police. A very high ranking police official who was a hostage himself was released relatively recently, and probably that's when some kind of signal--code was established through him when he got out.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Right.
MICHAEL RADU: And we have to keep in mind that there were 20 police--top-ranking police and military among the hostages.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Mr. Taubert, was there any model that you used in the training of the Peruvian police, like the Entebbe raid in Uganda, when the Israelis stormed to free hostages there, or anything like that?
BOB TAUBERT: We cover a number of case studies, not the Entebbe raid, but the British SAS raid on Princess Gate in 1980; however, I know of a situation that occurred almost 20 years ago in the Netherlands at a place called the Ponte, where nine terrorists took 56 hostages captive--captured them on a train, and after 20 days the Dutch government decided that an assault was necessary, even though no subsequent violence had occurred, because their psychiatrists determined that the hostages were near the physical and mental breaking point. And I talked to the Dutch marines who conducted the assault. They were very surprised that the order was given to go in, but that was the reason that they went in after all that time. It could have been the possible reason that Fujimori used to make a decision to conduct the assault.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Well, gentlemen, thank you very much, Mr. Taubert and Mr. Radu.
BOB TAUBERT: You're very welcome.