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Today in Terrorism

AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires (July 18, 1994)

On this day in 1994 a suicide bomber rammed his car into a building in Buenos Aires killing 85 people and wounding hundreds more.

Terrorist attacks where the perpetrator are still not 100% known after a quarter century are rare.

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA — When it comes to determining who, or which group, carried out a terrorist attack there are primarily two ways to figure that out. In the first instance a group makes a claim that it was behind the incident. This is usually done in the form of a post facto statement to the media or, in some cases, by the terrorists themselves during the actual event. It goes without saying that not all claims are true.

The second instance is where investigators, usually from security intelligence and/or law enforcement agencies do the necessary legwork and determine who was behind it. This determination can come from a highly placed human source (or sources) and/or intercepted communications meant to be private. Either way works and the two often go hand in hand.

So, what if neither gives you a confident answer?

It does sometimes transpire that a group may elect not to say ‘Hey, that was us!” for fear of retribution or to keep authorities guessing. Or a particular attack may have gone badly off the rails – say a bunch of children got killed when what you were aiming at were soldiers – and you really do not want to be associated with it.

Sometimes there is no consensus within the security intelligence/law enforcement community on who was responsible. These agencies are quite good at what they do for us but they are far from perfect. Rarely, they have no definitive answers.

On this day in 1994 a suicide bomber rammed his car into the building of the AsociaciĆ³n Mutual Israelita Argentina (Argentine Israelite Mutual Association) in Buenos Aires killing 85 people and wounding hundreds more.

I think today’s featured attack is a good case in point. On this day in 1994 a suicide bomber rammed his car into the building of the AsociaciĆ³n Mutual Israelita Argentina (Argentine Israelite Mutual Association) in Buenos Aires killing 85 people and wounding hundreds more. The bombing has never been officially solved, although Argentina, Israel and the US all accused Hizballah and Iran of being behind the attack.

I do recall seeing an Argentine intelligence paper on the attack years later but for the life of me I cannot remember what it said (if I did I really should not be telling you anyway). What I do know is that I have a hard time accepting the Iran-Hizballah link: it does not make sense to me given what was happening geopolitically at the time. On the other hand, if it was not those two I have absolutely no idea who else it could have been.

This attack may go down as ‘unresolved’ for the indefinite future. If so, it was a very large one to remain a mystery. But that is what happens sometimes in the world of terrorism.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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