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Argentina designates Hezbollah a terrorist organisation

The move comes on the 25th anniversary of an attack on a Jewish community centre that left 85 people dead
The freezing effectively designates Hezbollah a terrorist organisation, a government source said (Reuters)

Argentinian authorities have ordered the freezing of Hezbollah assets in the country on Thursday, as the country marks the 25th anniversary of the bombing of a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires.

Argentina's financial information unit ordered the freezing of assets of members of Hezbollah and the organisation a day after the country created a new list for people and entities linked to terrorism.

The freezing of assets automatically places Hezbollah on Argentina's registry, designating it a terrorist organisation, a government source with direct knowledge of the action confirmed to Reuters.

A truck loaded with explosives was driven into the AMIA center in a densely populated central area of Buenos Aires in 1994, killing 85 people and leaving 300 wounded.

Argentina blames Iran and Hezbollah for the attack, although both deny any responsibility.

In 1992, in a context of extreme tensions between Israel and Iran, the Israel’s Buenos Aires embassy was hit by a suicide bomber driving a truck, killing 29 people and wounding 200. Lebanese militant group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack.

With its 300,000-strong Jewish community - second only to the US in the Americas - Argentina is the only country in Latin America to have witnessed an antisemitic attack of such scale.

On Wednesday, three commemorative murals to the victims were unveiled at the adjacent Clinicas Hospital where many of the victims were treated. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the country to mark the anniversary.

Relatives of the attacks still await justice after decades of investigations beset by political interference and allegations of high-level corruption.

Prosecutors investigating former president Christina Kirchner for corruption have said that a memorandum of understanding she signed with Iran in 2012, which would have allowed Iranian suspects in the bombing to be questioned back home, was a cover-up to absolve Iran in return for lucrative trade deals.

A former judge who led the probe, Juan Jose Galeano, was jailed for six years in February for his role in a cover-up, while former intelligence chief Hugo Anzorreguy was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail for his role in obstructing the probe.

Meanwhile, former president Carlos Menem, who was the country's leader at the time of both attacks, was acquitted of involvement in the cover-up.

US and Argentine officials say Hezbollah operates in what is known as the tri-border area of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, where an illicit economy funds its operations elsewhere.