BUENOS AIRES (Aug. 2)
Ariel Mitzcaner was upset.
“I’m Jewish. I have nothing to do with the bomb. Every month my father went to the AMIA to pay the installments for my grandmother’s burial,” he said, referring to the Jewish social service agency housed in the Jewish community headquarters blown up July 18 by a terrorist car bomb.
The investigators were left puzzled. Their theory that Mitzcaner’s garage was the place where explosives had been placed in the Renault van used in the bomb attack had collapsed.
Investigators are confident that a man with false documents brought the van to be fixed at Mitzcaner’s garage. But nobody knows who the man was. The only description investigators had was that the man was Argentine, little over 5 feet tall and had dark skin.
He left only one clue — a reportedly false identification with the name Ramon Martinez.
Argentine police have so far detained five people in connection with the bombing that killed 100 people and left more than 200 wounded.
All the suspects have some connection with the van, which changed hands several times before the attack. Two of the five suspects stole the vehicle, but sold it before the bombing.
In the opinion of Judge Juan Jose Galeano, who is spearheading the investigation, there is one suspect who is the key to breaking the case: a man who stationed the van in a parking lot some 300 yards from the community headquarters.
He left the Renault in the lot on July 15, and three days later, another person drove the van to the front door of the AMIA, got out on the sidewalk and detonated the explosives.
Galeano has not yet been able to prove that the man who left the van at the parking lot knew about the explosives in the vehicle.
But one clue in the investigation was provided by Monousheh Moatamer, an Iranian refugee who is in Caracas, Venezuela, under the protection of the U.N. high commissioner for refugees.
Moatamer apparently held a high position in the Iranian secret service before fleeing from Teheran a month ago.
At police headquarters in Caracas, Galeano recently showed Moatamer some 20 photographs of Iranians suspected of having taken part in the attack.
Moatamer picked out four, saying, “Find out if these people have been in Buenos Aires recently. They are explosives experts, and if they were in Buenos Aires, they surely had some participation in the attack.”
The judge confirmed that the four men Moatamer referred to entered Argentina at Ezeiza International Airport, but left the country by crossing at the Brazilian border.
A source close to the investigation pointed out that the four men had diplomatic passports, but that only one had worked at the Iranian Embassy in Buenos Aires.
According to Moatamer, these men were in charge of organizing local cells of the Islamic fundamentalist Hezbollah movement and provided the terrorists with backing at the time of the attack.
In the corridors of the Pink House, head-quarters of the Argentine government, it has been rumored that the Foreign Affairs Ministry was about to expel the Iranian ambassador and break off relations with the Teheran government.
But the break in relations has not yet occurred, and it remains to be seen whether Moatamer’s statements will help advance the investigation.