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19 accused of human-rights crimes abroad are arrested in 8 U.S. cities

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ICE agents arrested 19 fugitives across the country during "Operation No Safe Haven." Above, a file photo shows ICE agents at a San Fernando Valley home in 2012.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Federal agents have arrested 19 fugitives in cities across the U.S. -- including Los Angeles and San Francisco -- who are suspected of committing war crimes and other human-rights violations abroad, officials announced Wednesday.

The arrests mark the first time U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have targeted suspected war criminals illegally seeking shelter in the U.S., the agency said. The investigation, dubbed Operation No Safe Haven, concluded Friday.

In a statement announcing the arrests, ICE said it was committed to “rooting out alleged human rights violators who seek a safe haven in the United States.”

Among those arrested was a West African man who was a member of a revolutionary group known for killing women and children, authorities said. He had evaded capture after receiving a deportation order from an immigration judge more than a decade ago.

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Two citizens Central American citizens accused of committing human rights atrocities were also apprehended -- one during a civil war in the 1980s, the other as a police official interrogating unarmed civilians suspected of being guerrillas.

Others who were arrested are accused of participating in persecution, genocide, torture, extrajudicial killings and recruiting child soldiers, ICE said.

All remained in custody Wednesday after they were captured by field operatives in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, New Orleans and New York.

Among the group of 19, four were arrested in Los Angeles -- all of them from Central America, according to ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley. A Central Africa citizen was arrested in San Francisco.

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Authorities did not release any further information on their identities.

ICE said some used fake IDs to enter the U.S. illegally and attempted to blend into their communities. However, many were unable to avoid trouble -- all had outstanding deportation warrants, and eight of them had been convicted of committing crimes in the US.

The foreign nationals are subject to prosecution in their respective countries of origin, according to ICE.

Since 2004, the agency said it has obtained deportation orders and removed more than 250 known or suspected human-rights violators.

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Follow the reporter on Twitter: @LATangel


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