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Manuel Noriega, Panama ex-strongman, dies at 83

Manuel Noriega, Panama ex-strongman, dies at 83

General Manuel Noriega in October 1989 in Panama (L) and in January 1990 in Miami Manuel Noriega, Panama ex-strongman, dies at 83

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AFP

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Noriega was in power in October 1989 but by January 1990 was in Miami facing drugs charges

General Manuel Antonio Noriega, former military leader of Panama, has died aged 83, officials have announced.

Noriega recently underwent an operation after suffering a haemorrhage following brain surgery.

Noriega had been a key US ally but was forcibly removed when American troops invaded in 1989 and was later jailed in the US on drugs and laundering charges.

He was also convicted in France, and then in Panama for murder, corruption and embezzlement.

Noriega had been released from jail in January in Panama to prepare for the brain operation.

His death was announced by Secretary of State for Communication Manuel Dominguez.

Heavy metal music

Although he was never elected to office, Noriega became the de facto leader of Panama, serving a six-year tenure as military governor in the 1980s.

A strong supporter of the United States, he became a key ally in Washington's attempts to battle the influence of communism in central America.

But the US tired of his increasingly repressive role internally in Panama, and there were indications he was selling his services to other intelligence bodies, not to mention drug-trafficking organisations.

Noriega was indicted in a US federal court on drug-trafficking charges in 1988 and, after US observers declared he had stolen the 1989 election, President George HW Bush launched an invasion.

Noriega sought refuge in the Vatican's diplomatic mission in Panama City.

US troops flushed him out was to play deafening pop and heavy metal music non-stop outside.

By 3 January 1990, Noriega surrendered and was flown to the US to face drug-trafficking, money-laundering and racketeering charges, serving 17 years in jail there.

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