US sanctions suspected Hezbollah mastermind behind 1994 attack in Argentina

25 years after Jewish center bombing, Treasury Department says Salman Raouf Salman remains a threat; State Department offers $7 million reward for info on his location

Hezbollah operative Salman Raouf Salman, suspected of masterminding the 1994 AMIA bombings in Argentina (Interpol)
Hezbollah operative Salman Raouf Salman, suspected of masterminding the 1994 AMIA bombings in Argentina (Interpol)

The United States on Friday imposed financial sanctions on a Hezbollah leader suspected of masterminding the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people.

The US Treasury sanctions on the 25th anniversary of the attack freeze any assets of Salman Raouf Salman for acting for or on behalf of Hezbollah, while the State Department is offering a $7 million reward for information on his location.

Salman, a top leader in Hezbollah’s External Security Organization, which directs terror attacks around the world, “coordinated a devastating attack in Buenos Aires, Argentina against the largest Jewish center in South America 25 years ago and has directed terrorist operations in the Western Hemisphere for Hezbollah ever since,” said Sigal Mandelker, the US Treasury Department’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

The Treasury Department said Salman “provided all necessary support to perpetrate the terrorist attack against the AMIA building, coordinating the activities of the Hezbollah attack squad in Buenos Aires, and maintaining communication with Hezbollah leaders in Lebanon and the operations logistics command center in the Tri-Border Area [of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay].”

People hold up pictures of people who died during the bombing at the AMIA Jewish center that killed 85 people, on the 25th anniversary of the attack in Buenos Aires, Argentina, July 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

He has since risen through the ranks of the organization, and in recent years was identified as being behind foiled terrorist plots in Chile and Peru.

The US Treasury said the new sanctions highlight Hezbollah’s “ongoing operational presence in the Western Hemisphere and that [it] continues to pose a threat to the region by actively plotting attacks against civilian targets.”

Hezbollah operative Salman Raouf Salman, suspected of masterminding the 1994 AMIA bombings in Argentina (Interpol)

Salman has been reported to have joint Lebanese and Colombian citizenship, allowing him to move more easily across Latin America.

Asked where he is believed to be now, a senior administration official said: “We think he is probably somewhere in the Middle East.”

The Treasury designation will freeze any assets he may have in the United States and criminalize any assistance to him, although Hezbollah as a whole is already under heavy US sanctions.

A State Department official said that the United States has been encouraging Latin American nations to follow the US model in blacklisting groups and individuals as terrorists.

Additionally on Thursday a bipartisan group of US senators introduced a resolution to remember the 1994 bombing.

And Argentina’s government on Thursday branded Hezbollah a terrorist organization and froze its assets, on the day it remembered the attack.

Sirens rang out in cities throughout the country at 9:53 a.m., the exact time the bomb ripped through the Buenos Aires building, and names of those killed were read out at an official ceremony.

Argentina has accused top Iranian ex-officials of being behind the AMIA attack but has never been able to question them.

Decades of investigations have been beset by political interference and allegations of high-level corruption.

With its 300,000-strong Jewish community — second only to the US in the Americas — Argentina is the only country in Latin America to have suffered such an anti-Semitic attack.

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