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Police arrest Salvadoran ex-guerrilla accused of attack on U.S. helicopter

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - A former Salvadoran guerrilla accused of shooting down a U.S. army helicopter carrying three soldiers during El Salvador’s civil war in 1991 was arrested on Tuesday, authorities said.

Santos Guevara, known as “Comandante Dominguez,” was arrested at the airport after returning from Costa Rica, El Salvador’s police said.

“He will now face justice for his acts,” the police said on Twitter, posting a photo of Guevara in black slacks and a cream-colored polo shirt standing in front of a van marked “Interpol.”

According to the U.N.-backed Truth Commission, Guevara and other members of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) guerrilla group shot down the U.S. aircraft in the rural municipality of Lolotique amid El Salvador’s 1980-1992 civil war.

The long conflict between a series of U.S.-backed governments and leftist rebels in El Salvador left 75,000 people dead and another 8,000 missing.

The pilot, Daniel F. Scott, died in the crash. Lieutenant Colonel David H. Pickett and Corporal Earnest G. Dawson survived but were later killed by Guevara’s leader, Severiano Fuentes, and another FMLN member, Fernan Fernandez, violating international humanitarian law.

The two turned themselves in a year after the incident, but were released under a 1993 amnesty law that aimed to absolve militants on both sides of the civil war who took part in war crimes.

The supreme court overturned the law in 2016, calling it unconstitutional, paving the way for prosecutors to order the arrests of the three guerrillas.

Fuentes and Fernandez are still at large.

Authorities are also investigating the 1981 El Mozote massacre, in which soldiers are thought to have killed 1,000 people, and the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

Reporting by Nelson Renteria; Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Christian Schmollinger