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Former Chilean Army Chief Probed in 'Caravan of Death' Killings

FILE - Juan Emilio Cheyre, then the chief of Chile's army, talks with Michelle Bachelet, then the country's president-elect, after a meeting in her house in Santiago, Jan. 17, 2006.

The former head of Chile's army was detained Thursday as a formal investigation opened into his alleged involvement in the killing of 15 people during the first days of the nation's bloody 1973-90 dictatorship.

Retired General Juan Emilio Cheyre, who led Chile's army from 2002 to 2006, after the return to democracy, was a junior military officer at the time of the 1973 coup.

During his time as chief of Chile's army, Cheyre famously said a coup and human rights violations should "never again" happen in Chile.

Cheyre is accused of complicity in the killing of 15 people in the northern city of La Serena on October 16, 1973, during the "Caravan of Death." Eight other ex-officers from the same regiment are also being investigated.

"Judge Mario Carroza opens investigation into retired General Juan Emilio Cheyre and eight other people for Caravan of Death case," Chile's judiciary said in a tweet.

The "Caravan of Death" was a military committee that traveled around Chile by helicopter after the coup, ordering the deaths of suspected leftist opponents.