Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 13 December 2019

US offers $7 million reward for senior Hezbollah agent over 1994 Buenos Aires bombing

The move comes as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits Argentina to mark th 25th anniversary of the attack

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shakes hands with Argentine President Mauricio Macri during a meeting at Olivos presidential residence in Buenos Aires. AFP
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shakes hands with Argentine President Mauricio Macri during a meeting at Olivos presidential residence in Buenos Aires. AFP

The United States has issued a $7 million reward for any information leading to the location of an agent for the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah believed to have masterminded the deadly 1994 bombing of a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires.

The reward is to find alleged perpetrator Salman Raouf Salman and it included new sanctions on him, in tandem with Argentina's announcement that it was designating Hezbollah as a terrorist group.

"We are targeting Salman Raouf Salman, who 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's under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

The designation coincided with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visit to Argentina as he sought to unite Latin American nations against the militants.

Twenty-five years since the bombing in which 85 people died, 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. 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," Mr 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.

Mr 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.

Updated: July 20, 2019 04:07 PM

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