3 Lebanese, Syrian nationals arrested in Buenos Aires airport over alleged terror plot

Suspects linked to suspicious package from Yemen, as security forces said to be on high alert due to Maccabi games in Argentine capital

Illustrative image of police standing outside the airport in Buenos Aires, Argentina, September 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Illustrative image of police standing outside the airport in Buenos Aires, Argentina, September 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Argentinian federal police arrested three men at the Jorge Newbery Airport in downtown Buenos Aires on Tuesday for suspected links to terrorist activities.

According to Clarin, an Argentine newspaper, security personnel detained the three after receiving intelligence about Syrian and Lebanese nationals entering Argentina and the shipment of a parcel from Yemen whose contents are unclear.

Clarin reported that the parcel, weighing some 35 kilograms, was sent to the home where the three suspects intended to stay.

The newspaper added that Argentine security forces were alarmed by the information, due to the fact that the Pan American Maccabi games are currently being held in Buenos Aires.

The games, which are held every four years, are hosting some 4,200 Jewish athletes from 22 countries.

This year, the games took on special significance in light of the Hamas’s brutal October 7 onslaught, which saw some 3,000 terrorists invade Israel to kill nearly 1,200 people, mainly civilians, and take over 240 people hostage, while weaponizing sexual violence on a mass scale.

Fans gather for the opening ceremony of the Pan American Maccabi Games at Movistar Arena in Buenos Aires, Dec. 28, 2023. (Flavio Peuzner via JTA)

Recently elected Argentine President Javier Milei, a right-wing, pro-Israel firebrand who has publicly mulled conversion to Judaism, spoke at the Pan-American games’ opening ceremony on December 28, saluting the athletes in Hebrew while reaffirming his “unalterable commitment to the State of Israel and to the Jewish people in their fight against Islamic terrorism, for peace and freedom.”

About 10,000 people attended the ceremony, including the US and Israeli ambassadors to Argentina, as well as local dignitaries.

Over the past few decades, the Jewish community in Argentina, which numbers some 200,000, has been the target of multiple terror plots, often with Iranian involvement. In 1994, a car bomb was detonated at a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, killing over 80 people and injuring more than 300. In 2006, Argentine authorities charged Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah with the bombing, which remains the deadliest terrorist attack in Argentine history.

In this July 18, 1994 photo, firefighters and rescue workers search through the rubble of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association community center, after a car bomb rocked the building in downtown Buenos Aires, Argentina. (AP Photo/Alejandro Pagni, File)

Federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who was Jewish, investigated the attacks, and was said to have found evidence that the Iranian involvement was covered up by Argentinian authorities at the time, including Christina Fernandez de Kirchner, who went on to serve as president of Argentina from 2007 to 2015.

On the eve of a scheduled appearance before the Argentine congress to discuss the allegations, Nisman was found dead in his home. His death was later determined to be a homicide. The left-wing Kirchner, a polarizing character in the Argentinian Jewish community who made some antisemitic comments during her time in office, was charged with treason in 2017 for her role in the alleged cover-up. The charges against her were dropped in 2021.

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