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Colombian Terrorist Convicted in Avianca Plane Bombing

December 20, 1994 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ A Colombian man portrayed as an assassin for the Medellin cocaine cartel has been convicted of planting a bomb on an Avianca jet in 1989 that killed 110 people, including two Americans.

Dandeny Munoz-Mosquera, 29, was found guilty of all 13 counts, including two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of the Americans. Other charges included racketeering, cocaine smuggling and destruction of an aircraft. He faces life in prison without parole at his March 3 sentencing.

Munoz-Mosquera was convicted by a federal jury Monday, concluding a two- month trial. He was first brought to trial in April, but the case ended in a hung jury in July.

He was a fugitive from a Colombian jail and already serving a six-year term in a U.S. prison on other charges when he was indicted in the Avianca bombing in 1992.

Testimony depicted Munoz-Mosquera as a killer-for-hire and drug smuggler in the violent Medellin cartel, then headed by drug baron Pablo Escobar. Escobar also was indicted for the bombing of Avianca flight 203, but was slain in a shootout with Colombian security forces a year ago.

″We are gratified with the verdict. It sends an unequivocal message that murderous acts of narco-terrorism will not be tolerated,″ said U.S. Attorney Zachary Carter.

The plane blew up over Bogota, Columbia, on Nov. 27, 1989, killing all 107 passengers aboard and three people on the ground.

Authorities said Escobar was believed to have targeted the plane because he suspected drug-trade rivals or informants were aboard.

Prosecutors said Munoz-Mosquera helped place the bomb aboard the plane before it left Bogota for Cali.

His attorney, Richard Jasper, contended that he was being tried as a ″scapegoat″ for Escobar, who for years eluded authorities while amassing a fortune from cocaine smuggling.

Munoz-Mosquera had been arrested in the New York City borough of Queens in 1991 and charged with lying to federal agents about his identity. He was eventually convicted of that. Security agents tipped off to his whereabouts were concerned because President Bush and other world leaders were arriving to address the United Nations.

Prosecutors said Munoz-Mosquera had murdered at least 50 police officers, judges and public officials in Columbia before escaping from a Bogota prison in 1991. They said he began his career as a hitman at age 12.