Judge Orders Arrest of Reputed Israeli Mercenary
Sep. 19, 1989
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ A judge has ordered arrest warrants for a former Israeli army colonel and an Israeli civilian alleged to have trained hit squads for Colombian drug cartels, officials said today.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Security said in a telephone interview that a 3rd Circuit Court judge issued the order Monday and it was passed to Interpol, the international police organization.
The arrest order for Yair Klein, a reserve lieutenant colonel in the Israeli army, came a month after Colombia media reported he and others trained gunmen for the cocaine cartels.
In Venezuela, police said today they were holding a man with a ''strong resemblance'' to Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha, one of the reputed leaders of Colombia's Medellin cocaine cartel. But officials would not confirm the identity of the man, arrested on the Colombian border.
Klein, now home in Tel Aviv, has said he trained Colombian farmers to protect themselves against leftist guerrillas. He said that if the men he trained were involved in drugs he was not aware of that.
Klein was the subject of a police investigation in Israel along with five other Israelis suspected of training gunmen for Columbian drug lords. The investigation was completed Sept. 8 but police have not disclosed their findings and Klein has not been charged.
In Jerusalem, a Foreign Ministry official said that Israel has no extradition treaty with Colombia. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Israel had received no official communications from Colombia regarding charges against Israelis.
The Colombian spokeswoman, Diva Rojas, said a second warrant was issued for Arik Acek, another Israeli whom she said allegedly helped Klein leave Colombia. She identified Acek as a civilian who had an arms business in Israel and flower shops in the United States.
''They are wanted for violating laws against conspiring, teaching and enlisting civilians in military operations without the approval of the Defense Ministry,'' Ms. Rojas said.
She said the two are believed to have entered Colombia in August 1988 and to have left earlier this year after reports surfaced of foreign mercenaries training hit squads for the Medellin and Cali drug cartels.
Reached in Tel Aviv today, Klein said: ''I didn't flee Colombia, I left legally, with an exit stamp on my passport.'' An AP reporter saw the stamp in a recent interview.
Klein identified Acek as a friend who helped him with Spanish translation in Colombia.
Colombia's Congress last week began investigating reports of foreign mercenaries in the country.
Drug traffickers have used their private armies to kill more than 1,000 Colombian leftists in the last four years. The cartels are also waging a violent war with the government.
On Monday, two more bombs exploded in Bogota, one injuring three people, and troops battling drug gang violence reported seizing a 22,000-acre ranch owned by a man reputed to be among top cocaine barons.
Security was stepped up at the U.S. Embassy, which was struck Sunday night by a rocket that did not explode.
The bombs exploded and at a government telephone company's substation, a police spokesman said.
No one has claimed responsibility for a rash of terrorist shootings and bombings since Aug. 18, when the government cracked down on Colombia's powerful drug bosses.
There have been 47 bombings with 121 people injured in the last three weeks. Four people have died. No one claimed responsibility, but security forces assume all were the work of drug traffickers.
The shopping center explosion in this capital of 6 million people injured a child, a man and a woman, the Colombian radio chain RCN said in a report from the scene.
A man was seen placing the bomb in a pile of garbage bags in front of a store, witnesses told an RCN reporter.
Soldiers on Sunday seized a 22,000-acre ranch belonging to billionaire Rodriguez Gacha, said a spokesman with the army's 13th Brigade headquarters in Bogota.
Rodriguez Gacha is suspected of being a key figure in the Medellin cocaine cartel that supplies most of the cocaine distributed in the United States.
Also seized with the ranch in central Cundinamarca state were 5,000 head of cattle and 300 show horses, he said.
Last month, the army seized 18 ranches belonging to Rodriguez Gacha, who is among 12 Colombian drug figures wanted in the United States.
The ranches were seized under emergency powers instituted by President Virgilio Barco to counter a wave of terror by Colombia's cocaine lords.