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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

More Shots Fired in Embassy Siege

LIMA, Peru -- Gunshots fired into the air broke a nervous peace Tuesday at the Japanese ambassador's residence, where Marxist rebels are holding 74 hostages on the 28th day of a standoff with the Peruvian government.


Witnesses on the roof of a neighboring house said three shots were apparently fired into the air from outside the residence.


"Each one sounded like a low thud as if they came from a silenced gun. They passed over so close I could hear them sizzling," said Gregg Newton, a Reuters photographer on the roof overlooking the diplomatic mansion.


Cameramen camped out on the roof said the shots were fired as they stood up to change places. Silence followed the shots.


Behind security lines two blocks away from the residence, policemen said they did not hear the shots. There were no reports of injuries.


All gunshots heard at the site previously had come from within the residence and were believed to be displays of force by the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, or MRTA, rebels. On Monday, they fired three bursts of gunfire into the air.


The rebels are armed with assault rifles and grenades and have booby-trapped and mined the diplomatic compound against a surprise attack.


The sounds of shots Tuesday added to the nervous tension at the site as President Alberto Fujimori has refused to rule out using force while talks to end the crisis are at a standstill.


The rebels hoped Tuesday to answer the government's proposal that a "guarantor commission" oversee fresh talks between the deadlocked sides.


The guerrillas placed a sign up to a window in the diplomatic mansion Monday calling for local television to be allowed into the besieged Japanese ambassador's residence to broadcast their reply.


But the government negotiator, Education Minister Domingo Palermo, told reporters he believed the television station did not want to be "a channel of communication for the MRTA."


The negotiations have bogged down in uncompromising positions. The guerrillas have refused to back down on their demand that their jailed MRTA comrades be freed. The government has flatly rejected the demand.


The two sides canceled a much-anticipated meeting scheduled for Sunday between the rebel leader, Nestor Cerpa Cartolini, and Palermo because the rebels insisted the talks be centered on the release of imprisoned MRTA members.


Palermo, who blames the MRTA for sinking the latest talks, has proposed the sides meet under the supervision of the Red Cross and the Vatican's representative, Peruvian bishop Juan Luis Cipriani.


Fujimori was set to leave Lima on Tuesday for the first time since 15 heavily armed rebels stormed a lavish reception at the residence Dec. 17 and took hundreds of guests hostage. He planned to travel to the provinces with visiting Ecuadoran President Abdala Bucaram.


Fujimori has repeatedly said he will not give in to the guerrillas' demands, dismissing them as "terrorist blackmail." But he has floated the possibility of transporting the rebels to another country if they lay down their arms and release all of their captives.