BOGOTA, Colombia – Interpol issued an international arrest warrant Tuesday for three Israelis accused of training private armies of Colombian drug cartels and right-wing death squads.
Yair Klein, Melnik Ferri and Tzedaka Abraham were being sought on charges of criminal conspiracy and instruction in terrorism and face nearly 11 years in prison if convicted, a spokesman for Colombia's domestic intelligence agency said, speaking on the condition that he not be identified.
The men are accused of helping set up training camps to teach private armies working for drug lords Pablo Escobar and Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha about explosives, car bombs and high-profile killings. The armies later morphed into Colombia's right-wing death squads.
Klein, a former lieutenant colonel in the Israeli army, appeared in a 1998 video used to train far-right squads. In 1991, he was convicted and fined US$13,400 (euro10,030) by an Israeli court for selling arms to Colombia's illegal groups.
Klein also spent 16 months in a Sierra Leon prison for his role in a guns for blood diamonds deal.
In an interview with Caracol television conducted in Israel and broadcast in March, Klein denied ever working with the cocaine cartels, but confirmed that he did instruct the far-right death squads in how to eliminate the leftist insurgency.
He said he was originally hired — with the Colombian Ministry of Defense's blessing — to organize security for the banana industry in the northern region of Uraba.
Many of his students went on to carry out some of Colombia's most brutal massacres.
Klein said, however, that, "They were not trained to kill, only trained to defend themselves."
Headed by Escobar, the Medellin cartel pioneered the use of unrestrained violence in its dealings with enemies and allies alike.
As Escobar fought against the threat of extradition, he declared war on Colombia, bringing down airplanes, blowing up police headquarters and offering his army of assassins a set rate for the killing of policemen.
Escobar was finally shot down by police in his hometown of Medellin in 1993. Rodriguez Gacha was killed by police in 1989.