Honduran air force jets bombed a remote jungle region of the Honduras-Nicaraguan frontier Saturday for the second time in three days to make good on threats to force an incursion of Nicaraguan troops from Honduran territory, informed sources reported.
Details of the bombing raid were sketchy, and Honduran military authorities made no public comment. Sources said the bombing took place on both sides of the frontier around San Andres de Bocay, a town on the Nicaraguan side of the border.The Nicaraguan Defense Ministry in Managua confirmed that the raid had taken place, saying that two Honduran warplanes dropped bombs on Sandinista troops in Nicaraguan territory near the border. A ministry statement said that the attack caused no damage or injuries.
There was no immediate report from the Honduran authorities about any damage or casualties.
On Thursday, the Honduran air force bombed a Sandinista command post at Amaka, about 5 miles inside Nicaragua, in retaliation for the Sandinista incursion, which occurred during a Nicaraguan offensive against the U.S.-backed Contras.
Sandinista soldiers reportedly crossed into Honduras a week ago in their largest offensive ever against the Contras. The guerrillas' command headquarters, supply dumps and main base camps are in Honduras along the Coco River, across the frontier from San Andres de Bocay, about 140 miles east of Tegucigalpa.
The Sandinistas, who said their offensive ended Wednesday, have never publicly acknowledged that their troops crossed the border, but their officials have done so privately.
Before Saturday's raid, a Contra commander said there had been no combat between the rebels and the Sandinistas since Thursday. He said that the Sandinistas were withdrawing from Honduras "little by little, in stages" but that Nicaraguan soldiers retained hilltop positions up to 600 yards inside Honduras.
As of Saturday, the Contras still held an airstrip about 40 yards inside Nicaragua, near San Andres de Bocay, the Contra commander said.
"I don't know if they (the Sandinistas) are just covering their retreat, or if they are mining the area," he said.
During a similar offensive last May, the Sandinistas mined the area before withdrawing. A Honduran source said Friday that the air force would strike again if the Sandinistas were found to be planting mines, and President Jose Azcona Hoyo warned there would be more bombing if the Sandinista soldiers were not out of Honduras by Saturday.
Two Honduran jets made reconnaissance flights at the border Saturday morning, and the bombing raid occurred in mid-afternoon, with several planes taking part, according to Contra and other sources. The bombing was concentrated around two airstrips on either side of the frontier.
It has never been clear how many Sandinista troops crossed the border during the recent offensive. U.S. and Honduran officials asserted that 1,500 to 2,000 Sandinistas had advanced up to 6 miles inside Honduras. Other Western diplomats say the figure was "in the hundreds," and sources in Nicaragua said that the Sandinistas had just swept along the north bank of the Coco River, which marks the frontier.
U.S. officials have appeared to be more eager than the Hondurans to respond to the incursion.
In the wake of the bombing and the arrival of U.S. troops, the Nicaraguan government announced that it was reopening a case against Honduras in the World Court for letting the Contras operate from Honduran territory. Nicaragua had suspended the case last August after all five Central American presidents signed a regional peace plan.