Last member of military death squad is captured after seven years in hiding

Ex-army Maj. Jesús Sosa Saavedra, accused of assassinating at least 37 people during the 1990’s, was arrested in Lima yesterday afternoon while withdrawing funds from a cash machine in the residential district of Barranco.

Sosa, who has lived under cover for the past 7 years, was the last remaining member of a military death squad known as the “Colina Group,” believed to be responsible for atrocities committed during former Peruvian President Fujimori’s 1990-2000 rule.

Nicknamed “Kerosene” for incinerating the remains of his victims to avoid their identification, Sosa claims that, Fujimori, currently on trial for human rights violations, knew nothing about the group. The death squad apparently received orders from army major, Santiago Martin Rivas. Rivas, in custody and accused of leading the Colina Group, has denied its existence.

Describing himself as “a soldier” who defended his country by fighting against terrorism, Sosa is accused of being directly involved with the assassination of 15 people in Barrios Altos in 1991 and the disappearance of nine local workers from Santa, Chimbote in 1992. The latter was undertaken as a “special favor” for a businessman in the Chimbote cotton trade, in order to teach a lesson to his workers who were demanding respect for their rights.

On 27th October 2007, the Sixth Anti-corruption Tribunal issued an order for Sosa’s capture in response to the disappearance and 1997 murder of Mariella Barreto, a former intelligence agent and member of the Colina Group. Sosa is believed to have assassinated Barreto, whose decapitated body was found shortly afterwards in the district of Carabayllo, for allegedly leaking information about the death squad.

Sosa spent last night in custody and will today be transferred to one of Lima’s prisons.

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