updated 3/8/2007 11:05:26 PM ET 2007-03-09T04:05:26

A federal judge Thursday ordered former de facto president Reynaldo Bignone arrested in connection with human rights abuses stemming from Argentina’s 1976-83 dictatorship, local media reported.

Federal Judge Alberto Suarez Araujo did not issue a statement on the reports and it was not clear if Bignone, a former army commander, was immediately detained.

The Todo Noticias network and two local news agencies cited unidentified court officials as saying Bignone, 78, was to be held at a military base outside Buenos Aires ahead of a court appearance.

The Diarios y Noticias news agency, also citing an unidentified court official, said the judge ordered Bignone’s arrest amid an investigation into killings and abuses when the army was suspected of operating clandestine detention centers in Buenos Aires.

Bignone was the last of four de facto military presidents before the dictatorship gave way to democracy in 1983. He governed from mid-1982 until December 1983, when elected president Raul Alfonsin took power.

Bignone has denied any involvement in the disappearance of dissidents during the military regime.

Nearly 13,000 people are officially reported as missing during the military crackdown on dissent known as the “dirty war.” Human rights groups say the toll is closer to 30,000 victims.

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