Manuel Contreras
Manuel Contreras, retired general and former head of ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet's feared secret police DINA, looks on during an interview at his home in the Penalolen neighborhood of Santiago, Chile, in this Nov. 24, 2004, file photo. Reuters/Carlos Barria

SANTIAGO, Chile (Reuters) - Manuel Contreras, who led Chile's now-defunct and much feared secret police force for several years under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, died on Friday evening at the age of 86.

Contreras had suffered from colon cancer and was admitted to a military hospital this week after his health deteriorated. He was several years into a 505-year prison sentence for human rights violations committed during Pinochet's 1973-1990 rule.

After his death was announced, dozens of people gathered outside the hospital to celebrate, chanting 'Murderer!'

Under Contreras' leadership in the 1970s, Chile's National Intelligence Directorate (DINA) suppressed political allies of socialist President Salvador Allende, who committed suicide in 1973 during a coup.

Around 400 crimes have so far been attributed to the DINA, including kidnapping and murder, some of which occurred on foreign soil. Dozens more are still moving through the courts.

During Pinochet's rule more than 3,000 people died or disappeared at the hands of the state, while another 28,000 persons – including current President Michelle Bachelet – were tortured.