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Monday, 2 July, 2001, 08:47 GMT 09:47 UK
Argentine 'dirty war' officer arrested
Alfredo Astiz in 1984
Astiz has publicly admitted human rights violations
Police in Argentina have arrested a former naval officer, Alfredo Astiz, who was a key figure in the 1976-83 military regime.

Captain Astiz gave himself up to police in the capital Buenos Aires on Sunday after a judge ordered his arrest.


I'm not sorry for anything

Alfredo Astiz
Italy has requested that he be extradited to stand trial there over the kidnapping and torture of three Italians.

Up to 30,000 people are believed to have been killed during military rule in Argentina, including about 9,000 people who disappeared and have never been found.

Mr Astiz, who became known as the "blond angel of death" because of his cherubic looks, reportedly once told an Argentine magazine that he was "the best-trained man in Argentina to kill journalists and politicians.

"I'm not sorry for anything," he is reported to have told the magazine Trespuntos in 1998.

French conviction

He was condemned to life imprisonment in absentia by a French court in 1990 for his involvement in the kidnapping of two French nuns in 1976.

Members of Argentina's Mothers of Plaza de Mayo
Women mourn some of the 9,000 "disappeared"
An Italian court has linked him with the 1976 kidnappings of Angela Maria Aieta and the 1977 kidnapping of Giovanni Pegoraro and his pregnant daughter Susana Pegoraro.

It is suspected that Ms Pegoraro gave birth to a daughter and was later killed.

Argentine newspapers reported that the alleged daughter is living in the port city of Mar del Plata.

It was common under the dictatorship for pregnant women to be kidnapped and killed after they gave birth. The infants were given to the families of military officers.

Our correspondent in Buenos Aires says Mr Astiz will try to avoid extradition and stay in Argentina, where immunity laws shelter him from prosecution for murder and torture.

Baby theft

But the 1986 and 1987 Full Stop and Due Obedience laws do not cover baby theft, and the Italian courts are seeking Mr Astiz on those grounds.

Dagmar Hagelin, a 17-year-old Swedish girl who disappeared in Buenos Aires in 1977
Dagmar Hagelin may have been abducted by mistake
The extradition process will be long and complicated, observers say.

Mr Astiz is also wanted in Sweden for alleged involvement in the disappearance of 17-year-old Dagmar Hagelin.

The Swedish teenager was abducted in 1977 by a squad from a torture centre with which Mr Astiz has been linked.

She may have been mistaken for someone else. Her body has never been found.

Argentina paid an undisclosed sum to her father in compensation last year.

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See also:

06 Mar 01 | Americas
Amnesty case gives new hope
16 Jan 98 | World
Menem condemns former officer
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