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ARGENTINA | 04-01-2024 13:19

Police in Argentina arrest three foreigners on terrorism plot suspicions

Security Minister Patricia Bullrich assures that suspected members of a terrorist cell arrested were waiting for "a package from Yemen"; Trio detained on December 30 are believed to be from Syria and Lebanon and at least one had multiple Latin American passports in his possession.

Argentina's government said Wednesday that three foreigners, citizens of Syria and Lebanon, had been arrested under suspicion of planning a "terrorist act", as the country hosts a major Jewish sporting event.

The arrests were carried out by the anti-terrorism officers in three raids, two in Buenos Aires City and another in Avellaneda on the outskirts of the capital. The operation was carried out under the orders of Judge María Servini.

Security Minister Patricia Bullrich told the media that authorities had been on high alert as Buenos Aires hosts the Pan American Maccabi Games 2023, bringing together some 4,000 Jewish athletes from 22 countries.

She claimed the country had received intelligence from the United States and Israel on the potential threat, and that the three suspects had booked a hotel near the Israeli Embassy. 

The information had been received “by a member of the Gendarmerie” (Border Guard), Bullrich told reporters.

"We have neutralised the arrival of a possible terrorist cell in the country," Argentina’s Security Ministry said in a post on social media. 

The three were arrested on December 30, and one of them was found with Venezuelan and Colombian passports in his name.

Bullrich said the three had been awaiting the arrival of what her portfolio earlier described as "an international shipment of a 35-kilo parcel originating in the Republic of Yemen." 
"Everything is under secret investigation, so the names" of the detainees will not be given out, said the minister.

"There are different identities, different passports. They had other entries into Argentina with passports from a different nationality to the ones they used on this occasion. There is an investigation [underway] and we will see if it is indeed a [terrorist] cell that came to Argentina or if it has another connotation," she added.

Bullrich said the authorities were investigating if there are warrants out for their arrest, either domestically or internationally.

Argentina is home to the largest Jewish community in Latin America, which has been targeted by two major attacks in the past.

In 1992, a bomb attack against the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires left 29 dead. Two years later an attack on the AMIA Jewish community centre left 85 dead and 300 injured, in the worst attack in the country's history.

The 1994 attack has never been claimed or solved, but Argentina and Israel suspect Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah group carried it out at Iran's request.

Tehran denies any involvement.

Hundreds of Argentines returned to the country after the bloody October 7 attacks by the Palestinian militant group Hamas on Israel.

The attack claimed the lives of around 1,140 people, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Militants also took around 250 hostages back to Hamas-ruled Gaza, 129 of whom remain in captivity, according to Israel. Among them were 31 individuals with Argentine citizenship, some of whom have since been released.

In response to the deadliest attack in its history, Israel launched a relentless offensive that has reduced vast swathes of Gaza to rubble and claimed over 22,300 lives, according to the health ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza.


– TIMES/AFP/NA

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