As many as 10 people were killed and another 95 were injured Tuesday when a powerful bomb rocked the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires.
Half the building was demolished and adjacent buildings were also badly damaged. The blast could be felt six blocks away.
Initial reports put the casualties at five dead and at least 76 wounded. But President Carlos Menem, who issued a statement condemning the bombing, reported the higher figures.
Sources in the Argentine capital said the destruction was so extensive that it was difficult to gauge the actual number of dead.
It was known, however, that the Israeli ambassador, Yitzhak Sheffi, and visiting Jewish Agency leader Uri Gordon were unharmed, said sources reached by telephone in Buenos Aires.
Gordon, who chairs the Jewish Agency’s Immigration and Absorption Department, was not believed to have been inside the building during the blast, which occurred around 3 p.m.
Embassy officials injured were reported to have been taken to three hospitals. Consul Danny Karman was described as seriously hurt, but other Israelis were only lightly injured, according to a report on Israel Radio.
That report said that a neo-Nazi group had claimed credit and warned of further attacks.
President Menem said the attack could have been perpetrated by a neo-Nazi group or a right-wing group of military officials called Cara Pintada (Painted Face).
Another threat was received by the Argentina-Israel Cultural Center, said Rabbi Morton Rosenthal, director of Latin American affairs for the Anti-Defamation League. The institute, which was evacuated, is not far from the embassy.
“This attack on an Israeli target in Argentina is unprecedented,” Rosenthal said.
Among the injured were about a dozen schoolchildren who attended a Catholic school located across the street from the embassy, said Cynthia Hener, an assistant to the editor at Mundo Israelita (Jewish World), a publication in Buenos Aires, who was reached by telephone.
The attack comes a month after Menem opened Argentina’s long-scaled files on Nazi war criminals who obtained haven in the country and extensive aid from the government of Juan Peron.
Following the opening of the files, death threats were made against a visiting Jewish official, Shimon Samuels of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who examined the files. Samuels was given armed guards to travel in Buenos Aires.
In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir described the bombing as “another attempt to strike at us, to continue the war of terror against us, although it is clear that such attacks will not change the course of history.”
He pledged that Israel would “continue to advance toward progress on peace.”
(JTA correspondent David Landau in Jerusalem contributed to this report.)
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.