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Pinochet-era remains discovered near German-founded colony in Chile

Prosecutors have opened an investigation after a discovery of human bones on a Chilean riverside. The find relates to a German enclave linked with torture and killings during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

The remains were unearthed by a firm that was digging for building materials, an official from the prosecutor's office said.

The land on which it was found, some 400 kilometers (250 miles) south of the capital, Santiago, belonged to a restaurant which was owned by the commune - formerly known as Colonia Dignidad - that was set up by a German fugitive from the law.

Police chief Claudio Ramos said officers had found human bones - specifically long bones of the limbs, and a human skull. “We can't be sure if the bones are from one individual or more than one,” he said.

Colonia Dignidad (pictured), which like the restaurant was later renamed Villa Baviera (Bavaria Village), lies 25 kilometers southeast of the city of Parral. It was founded in 1961 by former Wehrmacht paramedic Paul Schäfer, who had fled child molestation charges brought against him in West Germany at that time.

For decades, human rights groups have insisted that the Colonia Dignidad site was used as a torture center by the Pinochet government, and that political prisoners who went there subsequently disappeared.

A school, a hospital... and barbed wire

At its height, Colonia Dignidad covered 137 square kilometres (53 square miles) and had some 300 Chilean and German residents who mainly worked in agriculture. As well as having airstrips, a hospital and a school, the site was ringed by barbed wire fences with searchlights and a watchtower. Arms caches were found in or around the site in 2005, where a modernized colony still exists.

As well as the allegations related to the Pinochet government, there have been accusations that ordinary residents living there - including children - were subjected to brainwashing and severe beatings.

Schäfer was charged with 26 new counts of child molestation and fled Chile in1997, pursued by the authorities. He was arrested in Argentina in 2004 and died in a Santiago penitentiary in 2010, apparently of natural causes.

rc/jm (AFP, dpa)

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