Defector: Iran thought center was Mossad HQ, ordered bombing

Friday, November 7, 2003

LONDON An Iranian defector said the Islamic republic mistook a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires for the headquarters of Israel's Mossad in Argentina.

The mistake led to the decision by the Iranian government to order the bombing of a Jewish center in Argentina in which more than 80 people were killed in 1994. The operation was carried out by Iranian agents who arrived in Argentina with the help of then-Iranian ambassador Hadi Suleimanpour.

The accusation came in testimony by a former Iranian intelligence agent in Germany on Thursday. The agent, identified as "Witness C," was testifying in the trial of 20 Argentinians accused of being involved the bombing of the Jewish community center.

The 1994 bombing was the second of two attacks in Buenos Aires linked to Iran and Hizbullah, Middle East Newsline reported. The first was the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in the Argentinian capital. Argentina, with 300,000 Jews, has the largest Jewish community in South America. The Iranian defector, later identified by German sources as Abdul Qassim Musbahi, said Iranian intelligence chose the seven-story Jewish community center as a target in the belief that it served as a base for Israel's Mossad intelligence agency in Buenos Aires. The defector said the assessment proved be incorrect. Iran has denied any involvement in the 1994 bombing.

Musbahi testified in a closed-circuit video relay from the Argentinian embassy in Berlin to the courtroom in Buenos Aires. He said a special Iranian government panel decided to target the Jewish community center and that all of the attackers came from outside Argentina.

The former Iranian agent said Suleimanpour, was "very, very much involved in all stages of the operation." Suleimanpour has been detained in Britain and wanted by Argentina for the bombings.

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