Chile 'Caravan of Death' commander Gen Arellano Stark dies

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Gen Sergio Arellano Stark, Caravan of Death commander, undated fileImage source, AFP

The Chilean general who led an army death squad in the aftermath of the 1973 military coup has died aged 94.

Gen Sergio Arellano Stark was the commander of the infamous "Caravan of Death", responsible for the killing of at least 75 political prisoners.

The army unit took opponents of Gen Pinochet's regime from jails and executed them by firing squad.

The squad spent two months flying between Santiago and the north of Chile on the orders of Pinochet.

The country's military leader was reportedly annoyed that some commanders in provincial towns had been "soft" on political opponents.

Image source, AP
Image caption,
Pinochet said there would be no mercy for "extremists"

Arellano and seven other army officials were sentenced in 2008 to six years in prison for their crimes.

But Arellano was spared jail because he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

He died peacefully in a nursing home in the early hours of Wednesday.

According to official figures, 40,018 people were victims of human rights abuses between 1973 and 1990 and 3,065 were killed or disappeared.

The democratically-elected socialist President, Salvador Allende, was killed inside the presidential palace during the coup on 11 September 1973.

Pinochet stepped down in 1990 but retained the post of commander-in-chief of the army for another eight years.

He was arrested months later during an unofficial visit to London, after an extradition request from Spain.

Pinochet was allowed to return to Chile in 2000, but in 2002 the Supreme Court ruled that he was mentally unfit to stand trial for his crimes. He died in 2006, aged 91.