Sunday Telegraph: Iran’s deputy defence minister is one of five top Teheran officials placed on Interpol’s most wanted list for the 1994 bombing of a Jewish centre in Argentina that killed 85 people, The Telegraph can reveal. The Sunday Telegraph
By Tim Shipman in Washington and Philip Sherwell in New York
Iran’s deputy defence minister is one of five top Teheran officials placed on Interpol’s most wanted list for the 1994 bombing of a Jewish centre in Argentina that killed 85 people, The Telegraph can reveal.
Ahmad Vahidi, a brigadier-general in the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards, is in charge of the regime’s defence procurement and rocket and missile programme.
The role would put him at the heart of the secret nuclear bomb project that Western intelligence claims Iran is pursuing.
Gen Vahidi was the commander of the Quds (Jerusalem) Force, the Guards’ international operations wing accused by the West of organising foreign terrorist activities, at the time of the deadliest attack on a Jewish target since the Second World War.
Ali Fallahian, the former intelligence minister who is now a senior security advisor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Mohsen Rezai, then commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Guards, were also added to the Interpol so-called “red notices” list last week in the face of furious objections by Iran.
Their high-ranking careers have been tracked by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an exile umbrella group, through its contacts within the regime.
The international police co-ordinating agency named two other senior Iranian officials and Lebanese operative Imad Moughnieh, one of the world’s most notorious terrorists, as wanted for the van bomb attack that levelled the seven-storey community centre in Buenos Aires in July 1994, claiming 85 lives and injuring 200.
Argentine prosecutors cite witness testimony, telephone records and travel documents as proof that the plot was put together at a 1993 meeting in the Iranian city of Mashad and then carried out by Hezbollah, the Lebanese terror group trained and funded by the Quds Force.
Iran has always steadfastedly denied any involvement and the initial Argentine investigation was dogged by allegations of incompetence and corruption, prompting Interpol to reject its findings two years ago.
But a new prosecutor took over the case, issuing arrest warrants against the six men and presenting a beefed-up case to Interpol.
Teheran’s envoys mounted a fierce defence ahead of the agency’s general assembly in Morocco last week, accusing Israel and the US of trying to hijack its operations to harm Iran’s image.
International delegates rejected their arguments, voting by 76 to 14 to issue the “red notices” after a heated closed-door session.
Such notices are circulated by Interpol to member countries naming individuals wanted for extradition and seeking the assistance of national police forces.
In this case, the decision is partly symbolic as Iran has made clear that it will not hand the men over, although it does mean they cannot travel abroad without risking arrest.
Interpol’s decision to add the men to its most wanted list is particularly embarrassing for Iran as it comes as the regime denies it is conducting a covert atomic bomb programme or supplying weapons and improvised explosive devices to insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Several of the men have been at the heart of the regime’s security and intelligence operations for more than two decades. Most notably, Gen Vahidi ran the Revolutionary Guards Lebanon Corps before he appointed by Ayatollah Khamenei to lead the newly-created Quds Force’s mission to export Iran’s Islamic revolution.
His units have been linked to a series of international terror attacks, including the 1983 attack on the US marine base in Beirut that killed 241 servicemen and the bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996 that killed claimed the lives of 19 American military personnel.
In his current status as deputy defence minister, he maintains a low profile but he reportedly heads the country’s missile programme that would provide a delivery system for the nuclear devices that the West claim Iran is developing.
Teheran denies it is seeking a bomb and say its nuclear programme is for peaceful energy purposes.
Maryam Rajavi, the NCRI’s leader, said: “These arrest warrants demonstrate the extent to which officials of the Iranian regime, many of whom are Islamic Revolutionary Guards commanders, are involved in the export of terrorism and fundamentalism.
“The Guards Corps is the pillar of the mullahs’ survival. In addition to the torture and execution of tens of thousands of political prisoners at home, it is directly involved in the production of weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons, and is the mullahs’ most important organ for terrorism abroad.”