By Jackie Hajdenberg
January 3, 2023
(JTA) — Argentine Federal Police have arrested three men in the Buenos Aires area on suspicion of planning a terror attack as an international tournament has brought more than 4,000 Jewish athletes to the city. At least 11 members of the North Texas Jewish community are participating in the Pan-Am games.
The three men were arrested Saturday in three separate locations following an intelligence sharing operation between U.S., Israeli and Argentine authorities. According to Argentine press reports, they are of Syrian and Lebanese origin. One is a Syrian national carrying Colombian and Venezuelan passports under his name.
The arrest, the latest in a series of recent terror threats in the Argentine capital, occurred during the 15th Pan American Maccabi Games, in which Jewish athletes from across North and South America, as well as Israel, compete in two dozen sporting events. The tournament began on Dec. 27 and runs through Friday.
“We’ve been very attentive these days because of the Maccabi Games,” security minister Patricia Bullrich said at a press conference on Wednesday. “The president has been paying special attention and also because of what’s going on in the Middle East.”
Bullrich did not provide further details on the planned attack and did not say whether it was meant to take place at the Maccabi Games. She said the three men had hotel reservations just two blocks from the Israeli embassy, which was the site of a bombing in 1992 that killed 29 people.
The three men had been waiting for a package weighing 35 kilograms to arrive from Yemen, according to Argentine media. Their cell phones are currently being analyzed to gain more information about the alleged attack.
Buenos Aires has seen a spate of terror threats in recent months, both real and fake, several of which have targeted Jewish institutions. In October, the United States and Israeli embassies were hit with bomb threats via email and both areas were evacuated. One threat said, “Jews we are going to kill you all.”
In October and December, false bomb threats hit the AMIA Jewish center, which was the site of the worst terror attack in Argentine history, a 1994 bombing that killed 85 people.