U.S. sanctions Hezbollah operative behind AMIA bombing

Prior to the 2001 attack on the Twin Towers in New York, the terrorist group Hezbollah was responsible for the most American deaths, the Treasury said.

July 21, 2019 04:50
2 minute read.
U.S. sanctions Hezbollah operative behind AMIA bombing

A memorial to the victims of the 1994 AMIA bombing. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The US Treasury Department on Friday sanctioned senior Hezbollah member Salman Raouf Salman, charging that he was responsible for organizing the deadly July 18, 1994, bombing of the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires in which 85 people were killed and more than 200 injured.

The State Department also targeted Salman, offering up to $7 million to those who can identify or locate him.

The US actions came one day after Argentinian authorities designated Hezbollah a terrorist organization and ordered the freezing of the Lebanese Islamist group’s assets in the country.

The announcements coincided with a visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as Argentina marked the 25th anniversary of the AMIA bombing. Argentina and the US blame Iran and Hezbollah for the attack. Both deny any responsibility. Argentina also blames Hezbollah for an attack on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 that killed 29 people.

“I want to commend Argentina for designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization yesterday,” Pompeo said. “We call on countries throughout the world and throughout this hemisphere to follow Argentina’s example.”

In Washington, the Treasury said, “Hezbollah is first and foremost a terrorist organization, despite its attempts to falsely portray itself as a legitimate political entity.”

Prior to the 2001 attack on the Twin Towers in New York, the terrorist group was responsible for the most American deaths, the Treasury said.

“This action also highlights Hezbollah’s ongoing operational presence in the western hemisphere,” where it poses a threat and targets civilians, the Treasury added. The department pledged that the US would work with Argentina and others in the region on the issue.

It is important to “ensure that Hezbollah operatives can never disassociate themselves from their terrorist actions, and to prevent them from carrying out new attacks that enable Iran’s maligned agenda,” the Treasury said.

In speaking of the AMIA attack almost 25 years ago to the day, the Treasury said that Salman had “provided all necessary support to perpetrate the terrorist attack against the AMIA building, coordinating the activities of the Hezbollah attack squad in Buenos Aires.”

He had maintained “communication with Hezbollah leaders in Lebanon and the operations logistics command center in the Tri-Border Area,” the department said.

Salman was the handler for US-designated terrorist Mohammed Hamdar. Peruvian counter-terrorism police arrested Hamdar in October 2014 for planning a terrorist operation in Peru, the Treasury said.

Police raided his home and found “traces of explosives, detonators and other flammable substances, and a search of the garbage outside his home found chemicals used to manufacture explosives,” according to the Treasury.

It charged that Hamdar had targeted places associated with Israelis and the Jewish community in Peru. After his arrest, Hamdar identified Salman as his handler, the Treasury said.

The department further charged that Salman is responsible for terrorist attacks outside of Lebanon.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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