Price of terrorism
For the hostages held since December, the end of the siege at the Japanese embassy in Peru is a wonderful and merciful release. For the Peruvian Prime Minister, Alberto Fujimori, it is the end of a diplomatic nightmare. In a world where any lunatic group can resort to terrorism to further its own ends, the successful rescue showed that violence does not necessarily achieve its objectives, and that those who resort to it must be prepared to pay with their lives.
Despite the length of time the siege lasted, its dramatic and violent end caught the world by surprise. There was always hope for a peaceful solution, but when rebels stuck to their insistence on freedom for their jailed comrades and Peru refused to consider such a demand, the situation reached stalemate.
Finally, with pressure mounting, the Government decided to act and a bold, well-planned attack ended with the deaths of all the guerillas, the loss of two soldiers and the subsequent death of one captive from a heart attack. In such an exercise the safety of hostages is paramount. Everything had to be done to safeguard them and that inevitably meant the end of the rebels, even when half of them were known to be playing football at the time of the attack.
It is sad the siege could not have ended without bloodshed, though the 14 members of the Marxist Tupac Amaru group were mostly teenagers, and in spite of their guns and landmines, had not caused physical harm to their hostages.
They focused some attention on their cause, the appalling conditions inside Peruvian jails, and the questionable justice meted out by secret military courts where judges sit behind screens or wear masks to hide their identity. These measures were introduced at the height of the struggle against extremist groups because corruption and fear in the courts let many terrorists escape punishment. Since then, thousands of innocent people have been convicted.
Plaudits are being heaped on Mr Fujimori, who has had a major crisis on his hands for months. After such a daring rescue, he may emerge with his popularity enhanced among the electorate. Already, commentators are speculating that the incident could win him a third term in office. If so, one thing he needs to do urgently is install a judicial system which can offer genuine justice to his people.