updated 2/10/2008 12:57:10 AM ET 2008-02-10T05:57:10

Argentine federal police arrested two retired military officers on Saturday in connection with the massacre of 16 leftist guerrillas in 1972 on a military base in the Patagonian city of Trelew.

According to the state news agency Telam, the detainees are Paccagnini Ruben, 81, who captained a ship and headed the military base Almirante Zar Trelew, and Emilio Del Real, 73, a frigate captain who allegedly was at the Aug. 22, 1972 shooting of the guerrillas.

They face charges of torture, homicide, attempted homicide and illegal detentions. It was not immediately known if they have lawyers.

Police and Federal Judge Hugo Sastre, who is handling the case, could not be reached.

In August 1972, 22 members of guerrilla groups escaped from prison in the city of Rawson and took over the airport in nearby Trelew, about 800 miles south of the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires. Military forces guarding the airport managed to arrest 19, while three escaped by plane to Chile.

The 19 guerrillas were transferred to the base Almirante Zar, where they were machine-gunned in their cells. Alberto Camps, Mary Berger and Ricardo Haidar survived the attack and reported the crime _ only to disappear in the late 1970s during the military dictatorship that lasted from 1976 to 1983.

Nearly 13,000 people are listed officially as dead or missing from the military era, when authorities waged a bloody campaign against dissidents known as the dirty war. Human rights groups put the toll closer to 30,000.

Police also are looking for former Marine Capt. Luis Emilio Sosa, Lt. Roberto Guillermo Bravo and Carlos Marandino to face charges of torture, homicide, attempted homicide and illegal detentions.

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