Chile charges 16 military officials in Caravan of Death

A relative of the Caravan of Death incident places flowers in the Memorial to the Detained and Disappeared at the Santiago cemetery, on July 21, 1999

Sixteen retired Chilean military officers were charged Wednesday with involvement in the 1973 murders of 15 opponents of the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship, officials said.

In one of the grisly incidents of the so-called Caravan of Death, which is believed to have killed at least 75 people, officials including former army commander in chief Juan Emilio Cheyre were charged in the 15 killings, human rights special prosecutor Mario Carroza said.

Last year Cheyre was charged in the case, which took place at the beginning of the 1973-1990 Pinochet regime as the Caravan sought to quash opposition. But he was able to secure release on bond.

Remains of the 15 people at the center of this investigation were found in 1998 and forensic studies showed they were hit by multiple gunshots, Carroza said.

More than 3,000 regime opponents and alleged collaborators were killed or went missing during Pinochet's rule, according to researchers at Diego Portales University. Nearly 40,000 were tortured.

Pinochet came to power in 1973 in a military coup and ruled until 1990. He died in 2006 without being brought to justice.

The courts are investigating 1,200 other cases of alleged human rights violations by his regime.