July 2, 2010 / 9:31 PM / 10 years ago

Venezuela says arrests Salvador terrorist suspect

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Friday security forces arrested a member of a gang led by accused plane bomber Luis Posada Carriles and suggested the El Salvadorian suspect planned to kill him.

Chavez said Francisco Chavez Abarca was arrested on Thursday when he arrived at Maiquetia International Airport in Caracas.

“We captured a major terrorist. ... He was using a fake name and is on Interpol’s red list because he is part of Posada Carriles’ gang,” the president said in a televised speech.

“Why did he come to Venezuela? My heart tells me that this gentleman was coming here to kill me.”

Carriles, a former CIA operative and Cuban exile, is wanted in Cuba and Venezuela on charges including masterminding the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people.

The anti-Castro militant told The New York Times in 1998 that he plotted a string of bomb blasts in Havana hotels that had killed an Italian the year before. He later denied saying so.

A Cuban-born naturalized Venezuelan, Posada Carriles escaped from a high security prison in Venezuela in 1985. He was arrested in the United States on immigration charges a decade later, but was freed in 2007.

Chavez, who has accused Posada Carriles of trying to kill him several times, has repeatedly called for Washington to extradite him to stand trial in Caracas, describing him as “the biggest terrorist in the history of Latin America.”

Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Xavier Briand

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