The arrests came after newly elected President Nestor Kirchner on Friday struck down a decree that prohibited the extradition of Argentines accused of torture and murder during the brutal military rule between 1976-1983.

Among those arrested was a former naval captain, Alfredo Aztiz.

Notorious as the ‘blond angel of death,’ Astiz reportedly ran a death squad and has already been sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment by French courts for the murder of two French nuns.

Kirchner’s bold move was preceded by the order of an Argentine judge to arrest 45 military officials.

The officials face accusations of murdering Spanish citizens during Argentine’s dictatorship.

They include the 1976 coup leader Jorge Videla and several other former junta leaders already detained on other rights charges, allowing Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon to request their extraditions.

Up to 30,000 leftist opponents were allegedly killed in the ‘Dirty War’ by the military junta.

Long Impunity

Earlier attempts to extradite the officers  had been foiled by an amnesty granted by Argentine’s civilian governments that followed the military rule.

Kirchner came to office in May vowing to end impunity for those tied to the military junta and quickly purged the military of officials linked to the abuses under the dictatorship.

His crackdown on the military officials earned immediate praise.

“Argentina’s stance should be welcomed by all those who struggle to consolidate the rule of law in Latin America,” a US-based think tank, The Washington Office on Latin America said.