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AFP
July 21, 2019

Pompeo visits Argentina: US offers $7m to find Hezbollah agent

World

AFP
July 21, 2019

BUENOS AIRES: The United States on Friday offered a $7 million reward to find a Hezbollah operative accused of masterminding a deadly 1994 attack on a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sought to unite Latin American nations against the militants.

Pompeo visited to mark the 25th anniversary of Argentina´s deadliest attack, lighting a candle at the site of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association where a plaque lists the names of the 85 dead.

"They were killed by members of a terrorist group, Hezbollah, and had help that day from Iran," Pompeo told a remembrance ceremony, saying that Iran´s elite Revolutionary Guards provided "logistical support and funding." "We have not forgotten, and we never will," said Pompeo, who was joined by Latin American government ministers in Buenos Aires for counter-terrorism talks.

The United States offered $7 million to find alleged perpetrator Salman Raouf Salman and imposed sanctions on him, in tandem with Argentina´s announcement that it was designating Hezbollah as a terrorist group. Ariel Eichbaum, president of the Jewish centre known by its Spanish acronym AMIA, said responsibility for the attack lay with Hezbollah and Iran, the primary sponsor of the Lebanese Shiite Muslim militant movement. Eichbaum asked all countries to "help us find those responsible and bring them to justice." After 25 years, no one has been brought to trial and the case has been bogged down in Argentina amid allegations of political interference and high-level corruption.

Iran and Hezbollah both deny responsibility for the attack, and persistent sceptics have questioned the motivation. Hezbollah was also accused of carrying out a deadly attack two years earlier against the Israeli embassy.

The United States is encouraging Latin American countries to follow its lead in aggressively designating groups or individuals as terrorists, as demonstrated by Argentina´s action. "In the face of a global threat like Hezbollah, it is every sovereign nation´s obligation and responsibility to comply with sanctions designed to keep all of us safe," Pompeo said as he opened the talks with fellow ministers. "Solidarity is the antidote to the terror threat," he said. Argentina´s Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie said that the Hezbollah designation would allow the country to freeze the group´s assets and ban the entry of its members.

Pompeo said he expected "many" Latin American countries to follow Argentina´s lead on Hezbollah, although none immediately announced they would do so. The US Treasury Department said Salman, also known as Salman al-Reda, masterminded the 1994 attack and "has directed terrorist operations in the Western Hemisphere for Hezbollah ever since."

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

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