Peru Holds US Woman

Reuters -- Tuesday, 5 December 1995 5:40 PM EST

LIMA (Reuters) - U.S. consular officials have visited a 26-year-old American woman being held in Peru on suspicion she may be linked to a leftist guerrillas who were captured after a bloody all-night siege last week, a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman said Monday.

The woman, identified as Lori Berenson of New York, appeared to be in good condition, the spokeswoman said, adding that she could provide no further information. ``She has not waived her privacy rights,'' the spokeswoman said. ``We have no further details.''

Police sources said Berenson was being held at anti-terrorist police headquarters in downtown Lima. She has not been formally charged yet, police sources said. Under Peruvian anti-terrorist law, guerrilla suspects may be held for 15 days without charge. President Alberto Fujimori said Sunday that Berenson, her Panamanian partner and a Bolivian woman were among close to 20 Tupac maru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) guerrillas captured on Thursday night and early on Friday. Fujimori charged that Berenson aided rebels, including no. 2 MRTA leader Miguel Rincon, who were planning an attack on Congress by renting them a safe house in the La Molina district and buying them food.

Police raided the home, sparking fierce firefights and a 12-hour siege backed by armored vehicles and helicopters on a group of homes where rebels had fled and seized hostages. The incident left three guerrillas and one policeman dead and a dozen wounded.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that Berenson's mother, Rhoda Berenson, had spoken with her daughter by telephone Monday. She was quoted as saying her daughter described the allegations as preposterous. The mother said that her daughter had been visiting South America for several years, but knew little of her activities there. Congress Vice President Victor Joy Way told local television that Berenson had visited congress four times, identifying herself as a journalist for a New York-based magazine. He did not give the magazine's name. He added that she was accompanied by a Bolivian woman who passed herself off as a photographer. Joy Way said security at Congress has been stepped up as a result.

Fifteen years of guerrilla war in Peru have killed nearly 30,000 people and caused $23 billion in infrastructure damage. The MRTA is the smaller of two Peruvian rebel movements. But both the MRTA, a Cuban-style revolutionary group, and the Maoist Shining Path group have been severely weakened since their founding leaders were captured in 1992.