The United States is working “very closely” with Argentina to bring to justice the terrorists responsible for the 1994 bomb destruction of the AMIA Jewish community centre with a death toll of 85, a senior American official stated on Wednesday.
The US State Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Brazil and the Southern Cone Mark Wells deplored the fact that the AMIA terror attack remains unpunished nearly 28 years later, and stressed Washington’s commitment to holding “the victimisers of this crime against humanity” accountable.
“We’re working very closely with the government of Argentina on this AMIA case. And it’s a priority for the State Department,” Wells told reporters at the Argentine Embassy in Washington, during the unveiling of a photographic exhibition featuring survivors of the tragedy.
“There are Iranian government officials who participated in and perpetrated this crime and we will continue to seek justice for the victims,” he said.
The Ese Día (“That day”) exhibition by Argentine photographer Alejandra López brings together portraits of survivors of the attack on July 18, 1994 in the Argentine capital, which killed 85 people and injured over 300.
“It was the deadliest anti-Semitic attack since the Holocaust,” recalled Deborah Lipstadt, US President Joe Biden’s recently confirmed envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism.
“Argentina deserves justice for this hateful anti-Semitic attack” she said at her first event in office.
Lipstadt warned that “manifestations of global anti-Semitism are increasing dramatically”, and insisted that combatting them “remains an urgent task,” for which she described Argentina as a “partner” of the US.
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The AMIA attack was initially blamed on the Iranian government (headed by then president Ali Rafsanjani) and the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, a hypothesis supported by Argentine Jewish leaders and Israel.
However, the court investigation was embroiled in complaints over allegedly tampered evidence, cover-ups and deliberate mistrial.
Iran has denied any involvement in the attack and refuses to allow its former officials to be questioned.
At the opening of the photo exhibition, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Herzog underlined the “threat” posed by Iran and its representatives to world stability, and called for redoubled efforts to hold the perpetrators of the AMIA attack accountable.
“There were times when we were very concerned that the [Argentine] government did not take steps in that direction,” said the diplomat, a brother of Israeli President Isaac Herzog.
“I think that today our government is in very close dialogue with the Argentine government. We realise that there is a commitment and we hope that finally we will all see results”, he added.
The AMIA bombing was the second terror attack against the Argentine Jewish community, the largest in Latin America, estimated at some 300,000 members.
In 1992, the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires was the target of another bombing, with 29 fatalities and 200 wounded. This attack, which Israeli authorities also blame on Iran and Hezbollah, also remains unpunished.
Argentine Ambassador to the United States Jorge Argüello said on Wednesday that Argentine President Alberto Fernández plans to create a job for an official such as Lipstadt, as a token of the country’s “commitment” to the fight against anti-Semitism.