Argentine 'Dirty War' suspect arrives to face charges

BUENOS AIRES - An Argentine ex-military officer extradited from Bolivia on Sunday was "very much sought after" for torture and other crimes committed during the 1976-83 dictatorship, an official said.

Luis Enrique Baraldini, linked to crimes committed during his country's "Dirty War" in the 1970s and 1980s, was to face justice in Argentina after being arrested in Bolivia, said Argentine Security Minister Nilda Garre.

Baraldini has been "very much sought after as a longtime fugitive... for personally torturing people, according to witness accounts," Garre told a news conference after Baraldini was handed over.

The former soldier is accused of human rights violations committed in Argentina's La Pampa province, where he served as chief of police during the military dictatorship.

Garre also said that Baraldini "actively participated in the training of Bolivian army officers" under Operation Condor, a coordination effort by military rulers in South America at the time.

Baraldini was arrested in Bolivia's economic capital of Santa Cruz, where he allegedly lived under a false name for half a dozen years.

Argentina had offered a reward of some $23,000 for information leading to his arrest.

Argentina's justice ministry linked him to human rights abuses committed by former general Guillermo Suarez Mason, accused of ordering the killing of thousands of alleged dissidents.

Bolivian officials said they located Baraldini by tracking his wife, who traveled from Argentina to spend Christmas with him.

Argentine prosecutor Marta Odasso said officials learned about the wife's visit from Interpol.

Police found Baraldini and his children in a sport utility vehicle, and when authorities questioned him he showed a false identity document.

Bolivia's Interior Minister Wilfredo Chavez said the expulsion was permitted by Bolivian law because Baraldini had been using a false name.

An estimated 30,000 people died in Argentina's "Dirty War," the dictatorship's brutal campaign against mostly leftist dissidents, according to rights groups.

Those targeted in the campaign are popularly known as the "disappeared" because many were taken to detention centers where they were tortured and executed without their families knowing their exact whereabouts.

In recent years, Argentina and other Latin American countries have put several former military officers and senior officials on trial for crimes committed during similar crackdowns in the 1970s and 1980s.