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Thursday, 12 October, 2000, 13:48 GMT 14:48 UK
Chilean police raid German enclave
Map of Chile
Police searched properties in Santiago, Bulnes and Parral
Chilean police have raided several properties belonging to a German community whose leaders are suspected of human rights abuses under former military ruler General Augusto Pinochet.

More than 50 officers surrounded the group's enclave near Parral, 350 km (220 milers) south of the capital, Santiago.

Agents also searched a conference centre in Santiago and a casino in the southern town of Bulnes, which belong to the German group.

General Augusto Pinochet
The colony is suspected of killings during General Pinochet's rule
The enclave known as Villa Baviera - formerly Colonia Dignidad - has been raided before on orders of the judge investigating killings which took place during the country's 1973-90 military regime.

Police were also looking for the community's founder, Paul Schaefer, who has been accused of human rights abuses and child sex abuse.

Previous raids

The latest raid on Villa Baviera is part of an ongoing investigation into the group's alleged involvement in human rights abuses.

During the latest search, police are said to have examined the documents of the colony's 300 residents.

In a raid carried out in September, police confiscated documents said to contain information about politicians opposed to General Pinochet, human rights organisations and also the military.

Investigators say that the enclave, which used to run its own school and hospital, also had a parallel police institution.

One of the colony's leaders, Gerhard Mucke, was arrested in September.

Mr Mucke, a German citizen, has been accused of being involved in the disappearance in 1974 of a member of the Revolutionary Left Movement, Alvaro Vallejas.

Mr Vallejas is said to have been taken by the intelligence services to the enclave, where he was last seen alive.

The German community has denied any involvement in the matter.

Controversial past

The community was founded by Paul Schaefer in 1961. Its members live secretively on 13,000 hectares of land close to the mountains.

Although it was a closed community, the group provided a free hospital and school for the area.

In the 1980s and 90s horror stories began to emerge about children who attended the boarding school and were never seen by their parents again.

The community's status as a charity and educational foundation was withdrawn in 1991.

In 1997, police officers began a series of raids on Colonia Dignidad, mainly to arrest Mr Schaefer who was accused of child sex abuse.

Despite numerous searches and police operations in the area, Mr Schaefer has never been found.

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