Renegade combat veterans that captured a police station in a Peruvian town and killed at least four police officers in fighting said Sunday they would lay down their arms if government forces refrain from attacking.
Some 150 former soldiers belonging to a nationalist group seized a police station in the southeastern Andean town of Andahuaylas early Saturday, taking 11 officers hostage and blocking roads in the city.
At least four police officers were killed when some 300 heavily armed police tried to storm rebel positions in the city on Sunday.
The group leader, retired army major Antauro Humala, told reporters he wants government forces to "abstain from attacking us, shooting at us, only then we will put down our arms."
"I accept full responsibility for my troops," said Humala. "I am their chief and I ordered the capture of the police station."
Humala later said his followers would surrender at noon yesterday in the town square "in presence of the people." He promised his forces would not open fire until then, "but only if the other side does not harass or shoot at us."
The announcement came after Prime Minister Carlos Ferrero demanded that the group surrender and promised that their lives would be spared.
The former soldiers are mostly veterans from the 1995 war with Ecuador and the war with the Shining Path Maoist rebels in the 1980s and 1990s. They are calling for the resignation of President Alejandro Toledo, saying that he is a corrupt sellout to foreign investors.
Humala is the brother of Ollanta Humala, an army lieutenant colonel forced into retirement on Dec. 31. Ollanta Humala led a month-long military uprising in October 2000 against the government of Alberto Fujimori, who resigned in November 2000 amid a corruption scandal.
The Humala brothers were briefly imprisoned, but pardoned after Fujimori left office and allowed to stay in the army.
Humala told reporters that he spoke by telephone with his brother, who is in South Korea, where he served as the military attache at Peru's embassy. Ollanta Humala urged the rebels to put down their arms and negotiate with the government.
Toledo, who has a nationwide approval rating of around 11 percent, said Sunday the government would act with "a firm hand" to quell the revolt.
"Democracy yes, but a firm hand" against "those who have seized government buildings, who have killed and taken hostages -- this my government will not permit," Toledo told reporters after visiting police wounded in an assault on the rebels' positions.
Ferrero denied rumors that police and army troops were about to storm the area, even though town residents earlier called Lima radio stations with reports of gunfire.
The main streets of Andahuaylas, population 30,000 and located some 400km southeast of Lima, were blocked by armed members of the renegade group, witnesses said.
In an earlier interview Antauro Humala said his brother was en route to Peru from South Korea to lead the movement.
In Seoul Saturday, Ollanta Humala issued a statement, cited on local radio here, calling on the Peruvians to "rise up" against Toledo's government.
"It's the moment to rise up and to show the anti-patriot political class that the Peruvian people are capable of taking a virile attitude when wronged by a government that, day after day, loses its legitimacy and puts itself on the margin of legality," the statement said.