They may never have been thought of before as victims of the Persian Gulf war. But LDS missionaries slain in Peru and 17 chapels bombed there this year may be indirect war casualties.
At least the U.S. State Department told the office of Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, that many such attacks in Peru result from terrorist groups - who view the LDS Church as a symbol of U.S. "imperialism" - protesting U.S. leadership of the war, said Laurie Snow-Turner, Garn's press secretary.A missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Oscar Zapata, 20, a native of Piura, Peru, was shot and killed March 6 in Tarma, Peru. State Department officials do not know if war protests were a factor in that slaying.Also, on Aug. 22 as the United States was building up forces in the Persian Gulf, two other native Peruvian LDS missionaries - Elders Manuel Hidalgo, 22, and Christian Ugarte, 21 - were slain in Batanyaqui. A sign left by their bodies said in Spanish, "This is how imperialists' supporters die."
Snow-Turner said the State Department told Garn's office that at least 17 LDS chapels in Peru have been bombed since the war began by terrorist groups apparently protesting it by hitting what they consider to be U.S. targets - even though the church stresses it is a worldwide, non-political organization.
The State Department also provided a translation of a flier distributed by one of those groups claiming responsibility for such attacks, the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (whose members are alleged to have killed Hidalgo and Ugarte).
It said that group's "anti-imperialist campaign against the establishments and premises of North American interests" attacked the church in reprisal "for one of the most bloody and inhumane wars by which Yankee imperialism displays its contempt for Iraq and all the Arab peoples."
The flier also charged the United States waged war "without importance to the lives of the civilian population and solely to control the petroleum supplies and fix the world price of crude oil at a level in keeping with its interests."
The flier also warned, "There will be no peace for the Yankee imperialists. With the masses and arms fatherland or death, we shall win."
State Department and other congressional sources have also said many of the same groups are upset with the United States over anti-cocaine activities.
State Department documents have also given some background about the major terrorist groups that have attacked LDS targets in Peru.
It describes the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, often known by the acronym MRTA for the initials in its Spanish title, as a "Marxist-Leninist terrorist group formed in 1983, chiefly urban based, led by Nestor Serpa. (Its) objective is to rid Peru of `imperialist' influence and to establish Marxist regime."
The State Department estimates its strength at "several hundred." It has links to other terrorist groups including M-19 in Colombia and Alfaro Vive, Carajo! in Ecuador. It has received training in Cuba.
State Department reports say the group's activities are "often directed against U.S. and other foreign targets."
Another Peruvian group that has threatened LDS targets is the Sendero Luminoso, or "Shining Path."
State Department documents describe it as an "extremely dangerous and unpredictable terrorist" group formed in the 1960s as an Indian-based rural insurgent organization.
Its "declared aim is to destroy existing Peruvian institutions and replace them with an Indian-based peasant revolutionary regime. Xenophobic (or distrustful of outside influences) in the extreme, criticizes the USSR and China as well as the United States," State Department reports say.
Its strength is estimated at between 4,000-5,000 combatants. It has no known foreign sponsors.
Reports said its activities include intimidating the populace by executing civilians with government ties. "Starting in 1986, however, turned increasingly to urban terrorism." It killed several foreigners in 1989, and has attacked U.S., Soviet, Chinese and domestic targets.