Indictment against high-ranking Hezbollah figure says he helped plan deadly 1994 Argentina bombing

Dec 20, 2023, 10:39 AM

NEW YORK (AP) — A high-ranking member of Hezbollah’s Islamic Jihad Organization was charged with terrorism offenses, including the bombing of a building in Argentina in 1994 that killed 85 people, in an indictment unsealed Wednesday in Manhattan federal court.

Samuel Salman El Reda, 58, who remains at large and is believed to be in Lebanon, was described by federal authorities as the leader of terrorist activity carried out by Hezbollah since at least 1993.

From 1993 to 2015, he conspired to support terrorists in Lebanon, Argentina, Panama, Thailand and elsewhere, the indictment said as it listed six aliases for El Reda, including “Salman Ramal,” “Sulayman Rammal,” “Salman Raouf Salman” and “Hajj.”

He faces conspiracy charges and a count alleging he provided material support to a terrorist organization.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen said in a release that El Reda nearly three decades ago “helped plan and execute the heinous attack on a Buenos Aires Jewish community center that murdered 85 innocent people and injured countless others.”

The attack occurred on July 18, 1994, when the Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina building in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was bombed, killing 85 people and injuring hundreds more.

El Reda allegedly relayed information to Islamic Jihad Organization operatives that was used to plan and execute the bombing.

In the decades afterward, he recruited, trained and managed the organization’s operatives around the world, deploying them in Thailand, Panama and Peru, among other places, authorities said.

They said that in May 2009, he directed an operative to go to Thailand to destroy a cache of ammonium nitrate and other explosive materials that the organization believed was under law enforcement surveillance.

And, in February 2011 and in January 2012, he told an operative to go to Panama to surveil the Panama Canal and embassies maintained by the U.S. and Israel, authorities said.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said the Argentina attack was part of the terrorist operations that El Reda has led for decades on behalf of the Islamic Jihad Organization, the segment of Hezbollah that focuses on terrorism and intelligence-gathering activities outside of Lebanon.

New York Police Department Commissioner Edward A. Caban said El Reda was the “on-the-ground coordinator” of the Argentina attack.

Caban said he has since been “involved in plots all across the world.”

The U.S. Department of Treasury designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in 2001 and officials noted that the State Department in 2010 described it as the most technically capable terrorist group in the world and a continuing security threat to the United States.

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Indictment against high-ranking Hezbollah figure says he helped plan deadly 1994 Argentina bombing