The perpetrators of a 1994 terrorist attack on the main Jewish community offices in Buenos Aires have, for the most part, been eliminated by Israeli security forces operating abroad, a former Israeli envoy to Argentina sensationally revealed Thursday.
The AMIA (Argentine Israelite Mutual Association) bombing, carried out by a Lebanese suicide bomber who drove a car bomb at the multistory building, destroying it, killed 85 people and wounded hundreds. The bomber was subsequently identified as Ibrahim Hussein Berro, an operative of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terror group, and he was allegedly assisted by other Hezbollah and Iranian operatives.
In an interview with Agencia Judía de Noticias — or AJN, a Spanish-language Jewish news agency — Yitzhak Aviran, Israel’s ambassador to Argentina from 1993-2000, revealed that many of those involved in the attack had been targeted by Israel.
“The large majority of those responsible are no longer of this world, and we did it ourselves,” an AFP report quoted Aviran as saying.
Aviran castigated the Argentinian leadership, and claimed little had been done to bring to justice the Iranian authorizers and planners of the 1994 attack, or of a 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in the Argentinean capital, in which 29 people were killed.
“We still need an answer [from the Argentine government] on what happened,” he said. “We know who the perpetrators of the embassy bombing were, and they did it a second time.”
Argentina has come under fire recently, including from members of the US Congress, over its decision to seek improved relations with Iran, particularly its recent agreement with Tehran to resolve the issue of the 1994 bombing.
Argentinian prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who investigated the July 18, 1994, bombing, traced the authorization for the AMIA attack to a meeting of Iran’s National Security Council held on August 14, 1993, and compiled sufficiently compelling evidence of Iran’s role in the crime as to have several leading Iranian figures, including Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi and recent failed presidential candidate Mohsen Rezai, placed on an Interpol “red notice” list.
Contrary to recent reports, however, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani did not participate in the 1993 Iranian leadership council meeting that authorized the attack, Nisman told The Times of Israel in June. Rouhani, as a senior member of the Iranian government in 1993, “was a member of the Islamic Republic of Iran National Security Council, according to witness testimony,” Nisman said. But when that council “carries out extralegal activities,” he went on, it acts as a parallel body “under the name of ‘Committee for Special Operations’ or ‘Omure Vijeh Committee’… The AMIA attack decision was made by the ‘Omure Vijeh Committee’ on August 14, 1993. The conclusion of this prosecution office was that Hassan Rouhani did not participate in that meeting.” A 2006 indictment in the case (PDF) names Rouhani as a member of the leadership council, headed by Khamenei.
The final decision to attack the AMIA center was made by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and then-president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, according to the indictment. In the indictment, Argentinian prosecutors relied heavily on the testimony of an Iranian defector, former intelligence official Abolghasem Mesbahi.
The specific motivation for the 1994 AMIA bombing, according to Nisman, was to punish Argentina for suspending its nuclear cooperation with Iran. Once the decision was taken to act against the country, Nisman said in an earlier Times of Israel interview, it was a Jewish target that was decided upon — again, a familiar Iranian strategy. “When they choose to act against a country, the attack is commonly on the Jewish community,” he said. “It’s the first target.”
Nisman also said there are “clear signs” that terrorist networks first established by Iran in several South American countries in the 1980s and 1990s are still in place.
He said he had sent the information he collected in the course of investigating the AMIA blast to the judicial authorities in Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, Colombia, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Suriname, because there remained “a real risk” of new Iranian-orchestrated terrorist atrocities in those countries.
“Iran uses the networks whenever it needs them,” said Nisman. “It could be today. It could be a long time from now.”