The man Iran’s president has named to be defense minister is wanted in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, and his nomination drew an outcry from Argentine and Jewish groups.
Ahmad Vahidi, who commanded a unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard known as the Quds Force at the time of the attack, was nominated by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday along with others named to fill Cabinet positions. The Quds Force is involved in operations abroad, including working with Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group, which is accused of carrying out the Buenos Aires attack.
Argentine Prosecutor Alberto Nisman said on Friday that Vahidi was accused of “being a key participant in the planning, and of having made the decision to go ahead with, the attack against the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association [AMIA].”
Nisman has led the investigation into the July 18, 1994, bombing — Argentina’s bloodiest terrorist attack. The bomb exploded inside a van outside the AMIA, killing 85 people and wounding 200.
“It has been demonstrated that Vahidi participated in and approved of the decision to attack AMIA during a meeting in Iran on Aug. 14, 1993,” when he led the Quds Force, Nisman said.
He said that Vahidi was never in Argentina.
Argentine officials claim that Iran orchestrated the attack and that Iranian-backed Hezbollah carried it out. The US and Israel have also said Iran was behind the bombing, but Iran has denied it.
Late on Wednesday, Ahmadinejad submitted his 18 Cabinet nominees to parliament, which must approve the list. Most of the nominees were close Ahmadinejad loyalists or little-known figures, while public critics of the president from his previous Cabinet were purged. At least four nominees — for defense, interior, intelligence and oil minister — had ties with the elite Revolutionary Guard, a powerful base of support for the president.
“It’s significant, this nomination, but not surprising,” Nisman said about Vahidi’s nomination. “Iran has always protected terrorists, giving them government posts, but I think never one as high as this one.”
The president of the Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, Guillermo Borger, told Argentina’s Jewish News Agency on Friday that “we are completely surprised and outraged by the nomination of Ahmad Vahidi ... His nomination is shameless and insulting.”
Interpol said in 2007 it would help Argentina seek the arrest of Vahidi and four other prominent Iranians wanted in connection with the attack.
Among the others is Mohsen Rezaei, who ran against Ahmadinejad in the June 12 presidential election and is a former leader of the Revolutionary Guard.
The other wanted Iranians are former intelligence chief Ali Fallahian; Mohsen Rabbani, former cultural attache at the Iranian Embassy in Buenos Aires; and former diplomat Ahmad Reza Asghari.
Interpol had also sought Hezbollah militant Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed in a car bombing in Damascus, Syria, in February last year.
In Washington, US State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said on Friday that if Vahidi was indeed the man wanted by Interpol, it would be very “disturbing” to see him confirmed in the Iranian Cabinet.
‘HERO OF THE ERA’: President Tsai Ing-wen expressed deep sadness at Lee’s passing, and told the government to assist his family with all their needs Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) passed away at 7:24pm yesterday at Taipei Veterans General Hospital. He was 97 years old. The hospital stated the cause of death as septic shock and multiple organ failure. Lee had been hospitalized there since February, when he choked on a mouthful of milk at home. He was later diagnosed with pulmonary infiltrates and aspiration pneumonia. The hospital said that Lee had been treated with antibiotics, but that his health had not improved, as his advanced age and diabetes had inhibited his immune system and led to recurring infections. During his hospitalization, Lee underwent daily kidney dialysis, which removed
‘WEAK POSITIVE’: The man arrived in Taiwan in May and was quarantined for two weeks, Chen Shih-chung said, adding that he might be infected a long time ago The government is considering tightening mask-wearing rules again in light of a potential domestic COVID-19 infection, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said yesterday. The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) confirmed seven new COVID-19 cases, six of which are imported. The other case involves a Belgian engineer who entered Taiwan on May 3 and remained in quarantine until May 17, said Chen, who heads the CECC. Although the source of infection has yet to be identified, the case could end the nation’s record of not having any domestic cases in the previous 110 days. The Belgian, in his 20s, is a technician
RECEIVING TREATMENT: President Tsai Ing-wen, Vice President William Lai and Premier Su Tseng-chang visited former president Lee Teng-hui yesterday morning Taipei Veterans General Hospital yesterday rebutted speculation that former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) had died a day earlier, saying that he was weak, but receiving treatment. The hospital said the 97-year-old Lee was not in good condition and needed ongoing care, adding that if there are any changes in his condition, it would make those public. The comments came after rumors emerged online on Tuesday that Lee had died after being hospitalized since early February. Soon after the unsubstantiated rumors emerged, reporters started flocking to the hospital seeking confirmation. Lee was admitted to Taipei Veterans General Hospital on Feb. 8 after choking while drinking
ROAD TO HISTORY: When Lee Teng-hui joined the KMT, the likelihood of a Taiwanese becoming ROC president, much less its first directly elected one, was hard to imagine Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), who was born on Jan. 15, 1923, in the farming community of Sanshi Village, Taihoku Prefecture — now New Taipei City’s Sanzhi District (三芝) — during the Japanese colonial era, and rose to become mayor of Taipei and not only the Republic of China’s (ROC) first Taiwan-born president, but its first directly elected one as well. Educated in the Japanese educational system of the time, Lee, who spoke Japanese, Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese), Mandarin and English, won a scholarship to Kyoto Imperial University, but his studies were interrupted by World War II. He earned a bachelor’s