Revolt’s Leader Inspired Other Mutinies, Earned Noriega’s Praise
Mohamed Ali Seineldin, who officially surrendered Tuesday as leader of the military revolt in Argentina, is an army colonel of Lebanese descent who commanded an infantry regiment in the 1982 Falklands War with Britain.
He is regarded as the ideological mentor of Aldo Rico, a lieutenant colonel who led two unsuccessful rebellions against the army command in April, 1987, and January of this year.
Seineldin apparently returned secretly to Argentina last week from Panama, where as military attache he helped train the Panama Defense Forces. Panamanian military sources said he had not been due to end his two-year tour until Dec. 13. Last month, Gen. Manuel A. Noriega, Panama’s military strongman, personally pinned a silver medal on Seineldin to honor his work with the Defense Forces.
A devout Catholic born of Lebanese Druze immigrants to the northern Argentine province of Corrientes, Seineldin is also a staunch anti-Communist and a charismatic leader, according to his subordinates. As a young officer, he had some training at the West Point military academy.
In the Falklands War, he commanded the 25th Infantry Regiment, which held hills around Port Stanley in the disputed islands for 24 hours against advancing British forces that possessed superior firepower and technology. He was said to have rallied his soldiers with the battle cry, “God and the fatherland, or death!” However, Argentina lost the war, a defeat that humiliated its military forces and top leaders.
At 54, Seineldin is old enough to be a general, but the promotion has been withheld, reportedly due to his disputes with members of the high command. He accuses them of failing to uphold the honor of the armed forces.
In particular, he is said by acquaintances to believe that “corruption” of the high command led to the Falklands defeat and to the army’s failure to act when many of its officers were prosecuted for human rights violations after civilian President Raul Alfonsin took office in 1983.