JERUSALEM, ISRAEL — November 21, 2020 – Argentina last weekend said that it had increased security on its border with Paraguay due to an “anonymous tip” to authorities that was passed on via its embassy in the United Kingdom. There was a possibility of “bomb-making materials entering across Argentina’s northern border,” the report by Reuters noted.
The specifics of the case raise questions about the possible involvement of Hezbollah. The article noted on Saturday that the tip “warned of a person seeking to ship ammonium nitrate from Paraguay to Argentina.” The chemical would then be used to make a bomb to target a “Jewish objective.” The 1994 bomb against the AMIA Jewish Center, which killed 86 people in Buenos Aires, has been linked to Iran.
A 2006 report by Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman pointed to Iran and Hezbollah as likely behind the attack. Nisman was killed in 2015. Allegations of cover-ups and conspiracies have rocked the country since the bombing in the 1990s.
The Paraguay connection is interesting because it was believed that the 1994 attack may also have been linked to perpetrators who crossed over from Paraguay. The porous borders of the area where the borders of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina meet have often been referenced by the US and other countries as a safe haven for Islamist extremist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas.
After the August blast in Beirut was caused by ammonium nitrate there were many reports about Hezbollah’s use of the chemical. Ammonium nitrate is a crystal-like chemical that is used for fertilizer and can also be used for explosives. Hezbollah has used it for explosives.
According to a US report in September, ammonium nitrate was linked to Hezbollah caches that moved through Greece, Italy and Spain. The Foundation for Defense of Democracies also warned about the threat of Hezbollah and its use of ammonium nitrate. US coordinator for counterterrorism within the State Department Nathan Sales highlighted the use of the chemical by Hezbollah. The chemical was also linked to a 2015 raid in London. Other chemicals were found in Cyprus. Hezbollah carried out a 2012 bombing in Burgas, Bulgaria, which killed several Israelis, with an ammonium nitrate-based device.
The same chemical keeps appearing in reports linked to Hezbollah. For instance in Germany, the Interior Ministry also mentioned seizing ammonium nitrate. Diplomatic cables also say Hezbollah tried to import the same chemicals from Syria to Lebanon. Hezbollah is keenly aware of the destructive power of the chemical, having threatened to target its storage in Israel.
According to reports, Buenos Aires has begun an investigation into the allegations that a terror attack may have been planned. The General Directorate of the International Coordination of the Argentine Federal Police was involved according to a report at i24.
Over the weekend, reports from The New York Times indicated Israel helped the US eliminate al-Qaeda’s second in command in Tehran. Reports subsequently said al-Qaeda was seeking out Israeli and Jewish targets. Iran was hosting al-Qaeda, and Iran backs Hezbollah. In 1992 the Israeli Embassy was also targeted in a terror attack in Argentina. Hezbollah was blamed in that attack as well.
Allegations Hezbollah stockpiled several tons in London before a 2015 plot by the group was foiled, are a link to the current rumors about the possible attack aimed at Argentina, because the tip came from the UK. That plot was only revealed in 2019.
In general some European countries have not been forthcoming about the extent of Hezbollah plots uncovered on the continent or its trafficking in ammonium nitrate. There has been pressure in recent years to list Hezbollah as a terror group across the continent. Hezbollah regularly threatens Israel with its 150,000 rockets in Lebanon and its units in Syria. Iran also operates globally targeting Israel and dissidents. Four Iranians are on trial in a plot to target an anti-regime rally in France.
Original publication by The Jerusalem Post on
Seth Frantzman is a Ginsburg-Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and senior Middle East correspondent at The Jerusalem Post.