Argentina orders detention of Colombian in bombing

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – A federal judge on Tuesday requested the international capture of a Colombian national suspected of involvement in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Argentina that killed 85 people.

Argentine judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral has asked Interpol to detain Samuel Salman, 43, who is believed to be living in Lebanon, the judge's secretary, Fernando Pojaghi, told The Associated Press.

Canicoba issued the request at the behest of federal attorney Alberto Nisman, who presented a declaration on May 20 saying he had gathered sufficient evidence against Salman.

Nisman said Salman had lived in Argentina since 1987 and left the country a week after the attack to live in Lebanon.

Eighty-five people were killed and 200 were injured when a bomb exploded in a van outside the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association on July 18, 1994 — the country's bloodiest terrorist attack.

The center, a symbol for Argentina's Jewish population of more than 200,000, was destroyed two years after a bomb flattened the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29 people.

Argentine officials claim that Iran orchestrated the attack and that the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group carried it out. The United States and Israel also say Iran is behind the bombing, but Iran has denied it.

According to Nisman, Salman had strong ties with the local Muslim community and helped coordinate the Hezbollah members' stay in Argentina. He alleges that Salman also gathered the information necessary for the group to carry out the attack.

The investigation into the attack has reached high echelons of power in Argentina.

A prosecutor last year sought the arrest of former President Carlos Menem, accusing him of covering up the involvement of a Syrian-Argentine businessman in the attack. Menem, the son of Syrian immigrants, has denied the allegation.

A black panther cub is seen in the grass at the Tierpark zoo in Berlin. AP Photo/Maya Hitij