CIUDAD DELGADO, EL SALVADOR
AMID the fire-charred rubble of a market in this working class suburb east of San Salvador, 30 government soldiers relaxed and cleaned their weapons. After five days of continuous urban warfare, the troops - aided by aerial bombardments - had finally wrested control of Ciudad Delgado from the leftist guerrillas of the Farabundo Mart'i National Liberation Front (FMLN). A tentative peace now settled over the smoldering downtown as residents such as shoemaker Armando Colindres emerged to assess the damage.
The bodies of five dead FMLN guerrillas were strewn across the main street. Several neighbors' homes and shops were leveled by aerial rockets and bombs. And one wall of the corner supermarket was broken open, a reminder of the rebels' effort to win over the hungry locals.
Mr. Colindres ushered visitors through his pock-marked apartment building down into a basement-turned-bomb-shelter, where the 65 residents had spent most of the previous 120 hours.
Yesterday, just hours after some 200 rebels evacuated the area the building came alive again. Children played and adults expressed relief that the fighting had stopped.
But suddenly, several rounds of automatic-rifle fire exploded. A moment later came the staccato reply of an AK-47 - the FMLN's favorite weapon - from the next building. Dozens of residents, along with their alarmed visitors, rushed to the basement.
Mar'ia Lourdes Canterero and her two-year-old daughter, Crisia, wailed uncontrollably. Several .50 caliber bullets had ripped through their second-floor bathroom and ricocheted off the walls. After five days of trying to calm her children, Mrs. Canterero found that she herself could take no more.
Twenty minutes later, after residents had climbed out of the candle-lit cellar during a lull in the fighting, a chest-thumping explosion sent them scrambling for the basement once more.
``It's the airplanes that have brought us the massacre,'' says one middle-aged man, explaining that the latest explosion came from a rocket shot from a C-47 Army airplane.
The people in this apartment building, stubborn yet resilient, have refused to abandon their home. ``Who would be here to put out the fire if we got bombed?'' asked one women matter-of-factly. As the visitors prepared to dash back through the streets to their car, the residents - who have eaten just one meal a day of tortillas and beans - offered them a farewell gift of a soda and a cucumber.