The Battle for Lebanon Explodes in Argentina
Israel initiated a campaign in 1992 to drive Hezbollah forces
from the southern border of Lebanon. Fierce fighting raged for
weeks, with frequent raids into Lebanese territory and shelling
campaigns by the Israeli army. The campaign culminated in February
1992 when Israeli forces assassinated Hezbollah leader Sheikh
Abbas Mussawi, along with his wife, his child and five bodyguards.
Within days, Hezbollah's 11-man leadership council elected Mussawi's
successor, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. Nasrallah vowed swift revenge
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, right, vowed revenge after Israel assassinated Hezbollah leader Sheikh Abbas Mussawi, left. A series of international terrorist attacks soon followed.
When revenge struck in March, it was not the sort many had
anticipated. Rather than hitting directly at targets within
Israel, a suicide bomber hit the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires,
Argentina. The explosion killed 38 people. Islamic Jihad claimed
responsibility within hours of the attack. Other acts of international
terrorism soon followed. After Israeli soldiers kidnapped top
Hezbollah operative Mustafa Dirani in May 1994, Islamic Jihad
bombed a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, killing 95
people. Two bomb attacks against Jewish targets in London followed.
It now became apparent that terrorists associated with Hezbollah,
which had been viewed as a provincial Lebanese-based militia,
were capable of fighting a war not only within their own region
but also against targets around the world.
A fireman and rescue workers search the remains of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 17, 1992, after a powerful bomb exploded. (Agence France Presse)
Terror's Global Reach
Although Hezbollah denied any participation in the bombings,
U.S., Israeli and Argentine intelligence officials were convinced
of its involvement. The CIA announced that Iran had provided
local logistical support for the attacks. Arrest warrants for
four Iranian officials, issued by Judge Juan JosČ Galeano of
Argentina in March 2003, have helped support these assertions.
According to U.S. intelligence analysts, the involvement of
both Iran and Islamic Jihad was consistent with the pattern
of proxy warfare that characterized Hezbollah's terrorist program.
"The operation itself was trademark Hezbollah," says Vincent
Cannistraro, former CIA head of counterterrorism operations.
No Hezbollah operatives have been arrested for the attacks,
There is little doubt that Hezbollah has spent the last decade
expanding its operations around the world, international intelligence
officials say. As early as November 1994, the Israeli deputy
defense minister, Mordechai Gur, warned that Hezbollah was using
the "triple frontier," where the borders of Argentina, Paraguay
and Brazil intersect, as a base for terrorist activities.
A map of South America's triple frontier,
where the borders of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil intersect.
Hezbollah is believed to run terrorist training camps in
the area near Foz do Iguacu.
Argentine officials say that Hezbollah runs terrorists camps
from a series of farms in the triple frontier. The operations
are allegedly financed through drug running and the smuggling
of contraband items, such as pirated software and music CDs.
Money made from these illicit activities, amounting to several
million dollars over the last decade, is possibly being laundered
through South American banks. Intelligence officials also believe
that the bomb used in the 1994 attack on the Jewish cultural
center in Buenos Aires was manufactured in the triple frontier.
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