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4 Israelis Indicted in Colombia

February 26, 1998

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ Four former Israeli army officers have been indicted on charges of training Colombian paramilitary units in terror tactics in the late 1980s.

Also indicted Wednesday were two Colombians, the federal prosecutor’s office said.

All six are accused of ``instruction and training in terrorist activities″ and face sentences of between eight and 14 years if convicted, the office said in a statement.

The four Israelis were hired by the late drug trafficker Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha, one of the Medellin cartel’s most violent bosses, and trained paramilitary units from 1987-89 in the Middle Magdalena valley, long a battleground between leftist rebels and the private militias bankrolled by landowners .

It was not clear why the men were indicted a decade after the alleged crimes, and prosecutors could immediately not be reached.

One of the indicted Colombians _ Luis Alfredo Rubio Rojas _ is the former mayor of the town of Puerto Boyaca and is the only one of the indicted men in custody, the prosecutor’s office said. All four Israelis were believed to be outside Colombia, although some local media reported that one had recently been spotted in the country.

The prosecutor’s office said that although the six men were indicted for their work with Rodriguez, they were being investigated for allegedly training other paramilitary units.

In battling leftist rebels for dominance of huge areas outside the control of the Colombian state, paramilitary units have killed thousands of alleged guerrilla sympathizers over the past decade.

Former Col. Yair Klein has been blamed not just for helping form paramilitary groups but also for helping train drug mafia assassins whose targets have included leading Colombian politicians.

Klein was convicted by an Israeli court in 1991 of illegally exporting military know-how and fined $40,000. A leading Israeli newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, reported earlier this month that he was living in squalor in the west African country of Liberia.

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