Who Is Israel's Yair Klein and What Was He Doing in Colombia and Sierra Leone?

Last weekend, Colombian intelligence agents arrested two Israelis and a Colombian suspected of being part of an arms-smuggling network attempting to deliver more than 50,000 guns to guerrillas.

Colombian officials are investigating whether the detained Israelis are linked to Yair Klein, an Israeli mercenary accused by Colombian authorities of training right-wing paramilitaries and drug-traffickers in the late 1980s and 1990s.

And it is this man Yair Klein that we are going to take a close look at today. It's the story of a leading mercenary but also of the governments and shadowy forces he has worked with.

In late April, Yair Klein was released from a Sierra Leone prison where he spent 16 months on charges that he was smuggling arms to rebels from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).

Klein is a former lieutenant colonel in the Israeli Army. In the 1980s he established a paramilitary mercenary company called Spearhead Ltd. Through this company, Klein began providing arms and training to forces in South America.

In 1989, Klein, along with several other former Israeli officers, was charged by authorities in Colombia of providing paramilitary training and arms to drug lords running international cocaine cartels. He is also accused of training Mafia assassins whose targets have included

Colombian politicians. Klein is also suspected of involvement in the explosion of a Colombian airliner in November 1989.

In 1991, Klein was convicted by an Israeli court of illegally exporting military arms and information to a Colombian group. He was fined $13,400. He has denied all charges.

In 1998, Klein was officially indicted in Colombia on charges of training paramilitary units in terror tactics in the late 1980s. He was allegedly one of four Israelis hired by the late drug trafficker Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha, one of the Medellin cartel's most violent bosses.

The evidence against him includes a training video that he used to instruct death squads in Colombia. The main leaders in the infamous Carlos Castano's paramilitary groups were trained by Yair Klein.

Massacres, assassinations of politicians and other terror tactics now used by paramilitaries in Colombia were part of the instruction that Yair Klein gave in his training camps.

[Source: Democracy Now, Thursday, June 1st, 2000]

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