Hezbollah Man Said Behind 1994 Argentine Jewish Center Attack

Prosecutor says Ibrahim Hussein Berro, a Lebanese citizen, allegedly carried out attack where 85 died.

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - A Hezbollah militant has been identified as the suicide bomber who detonated a van packed with explosives, leveling a Jewish community center and killing 85 people in Argentina's worst terrorist attack, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

Prosecutor Alberto Nisman said in a television interview that Ibrahim Hussein Berro, a Lebanese citizen, allegedly carried out the 1994 attack in downtown Buenos Aires, which shook the country's more than 200,000-member Jewish population.

Nisman, who is in charge of investigating the attack, said Hussein "belonged to Hezbollah," an Iranian-backed Islamic militant group. He said friends and relatives of the man identified him through a photograph - a major breakthrough in the decade-old probe.

Leaders of Argentina's Jewish community accused Iran of organizing the attack. Tehran has repeatedly denied that. Nisman said there are several lines of investigation, "including the hypothesis of help from Iran."

Nisman said investigators believe the 21-year-old attacker entered Argentina in the tri-border region at the joint borders of Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil, a center of smuggling and alleged terrorist fundraising.

For years, the Jewish community pressured Argentine law enforcement for progress in finding those responsible for the attack on the community center, which also wounded more than 200 people.

Wednesday's announcement was lauded by Daniel Berliner, a spokesman for the Jewish community who said Nisman had made a point of briefing his group on the breakthrough.

One judge, Jose Galeano, who spent years on the case, was removed in 2003 after complaints that no substantial headway had been made.

In 2004, about a dozen former police officers and an accused trafficker in stolen vehicles were acquitted of charges that they had formed a "local connection" in the bombing. Jewish activists continued to press for the identification of the "masterminds."

Although Jewish community leaders and others have suspected the involvement of Middle East terrorists, no mastermind has been identified and the victims and their families have become increasingly bitter.

Some speculated that the attack was inspired by Argentina's support for the U.S.-led coalition that expelled Iraq from Kuwait during the Gulf War in the early 1990s. Others said that Argentina's Jewish community, one of the largest in Latin America, represented an obvious target for Israel's opponents.

Community leaders have bitterly decried the lack of leads, noting that swift progress was made by investigators in other countries after terrorist attacks in New York, Madrid and London.

The Jewish center bombing was the second of two such attacks targeting Jews in Argentina during the 1990s. A March 1992 blast destroyed the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29 people. That bombing also remains unsolved.