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Embassy blast remembered, but the case remains unsolved

BUENOS AIRES, March 18 ( JTA) — The ceremony has become all too familiar: Kaddish was intoned, bells were tolled and the list of victims’ names was read aloud. For the seventh time, relatives of the victims joined local Jewish officials to mark the anniversary of the March 17, 1992, bombing of the Israeli Embassy in the Argentine capital. And in another familiar act each anniversary, calls came from Jewish officials in Israel and abroad to find those responsible for the bombing. The commemoration took place as the Argentine Supreme Court, which is in charge of the investigation into the blast and has been the target of repeated criticisms for its slow handling of the case, was preparing to announce that it is going to exonerate four suspects. According to sources close to the tribunal, the court will clear four Pakistanis who were briefly arrested days after the bombing but were freed more than six years ago after undergoing interrogation. The court also plans to revise the bombing’s death toll to 22 from the 29 reported in the immediate aftermath of the bombing. As he has done in the past, Israel’s ambassador to Argentina blasted the court, along with local police, at Wednesday’s commemoration. Surrounded by some of the heaviest security this city has ever seen, Ambassador Itzhak Aviran addressed a crowd of 800 who gathered at the site of the bombing. The ambassador said the Argentine Supreme Court “kept the case paralyzed for six years” and “never interrogated the Iranian diplomats” who were thought to be involved in the blast, but “were allowed to leave Argentina unmolested.” Aviran then turned his ire on the police. “The day of the bombing, the police assigned to our security were gone. A patrol car noticed [their absence] minutes before the explosion, but did not report it to command. This is extremely grave, but the Argentine police never investigated what really happened.” Aviran reiterated the accusation that Hezbollah operatives were behind the bombing and were also responsible for the July 18, 1994, bombing of the AMIA community center in Buenos Aires, which killed 86 people. As with the embassy attack, no suspects have been charged in connection with the AMIA blast and the crime remains unsolved. Aviran concluded by asking “all Argentines” to demand justice and demanding that “the Argentine government, in this, its 50th year of friendship with Israel, do everything to capture those who destroyed a part of Israel and a part of Argentina.” In Israel on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon called on the government of Argentina, “despite the difficulties and the time which has passed, to take every possible measure to find those guilty of this crime.” Sharon linked the embassy bombing to the “protracted struggle of over 100 years against Arab and Palestinian extremist terrorism,” which “continues to strike at us in Israel, the Middle East and throughout the world.”