December 17

This Day in History

General Interest

Dec 17, 1996:

Peruvian rebels seize Japanese ambassador's home

In Lima, Peru, 14 members of the Tupac Amaru leftist rebel movement, disguised as waiters and caterers, slip into the home of Japanese Ambassador Morihisa Aoki, where a reception honoring the birthday of the Japanese emperor was being held. The armed terrorists took 490 people hostage. Police promptly surrounded the compound, and the rebels agreed to release 170 women and elderly guests but declared they would kill the remaining 320 if their demands were not met.

The Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) was founded in 1984 as a militant organization dedicated to communist revolution in Peru. A few days after the hostage crisis at the Japanese ambassador's home began, the rebels released all but 72 hostages and demanded the release of 400 MRTA members imprisoned in Peru. Among the important officials held hostage in the Japanese ambassador's home were the brother of Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori; Foreign Minister Francisco Tudela; supreme court judges; members of the ruling party; and a number of foreign ambassadors from Japan and elsewhere. President Fujimori, who was known for taking a hard-line stance against leftist guerrillas in Peru, did not give in to the key points of the rebels' demands and on April 22, 1997, ordered an assault on the complex by a 140-man special forces team.

After secretly warning the hostages 10 minutes before the attack, the special forces team set off a blast in a tunnel beneath the building, which surprised the rebels and killed eight of the 14 immediately. The rest of the elite soldiers attacked from several other directions, overwhelming the remaining terrorists. All 14 rebels were killed in the assault, including the leader, Nestor Cerpa, who was shot multiple times. One hostage, Supreme Court Justice Carlos Giusti, was killed in the attack, and of the several soldiers wounded during the rescue operation, two later died from their injuries.

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