FILE ID:95092812.LAR




TR95092812 (Officials, NGOs testify to committee) bc (600)

By Bruce Carey

USIA Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Hizballah terrorist cells supported by Iran and

threatening the West are festering in the tri-border region of

Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, U.S. officials and private groups told


Officials from the State Department and the Federal Bureau of

Investigation (FBI), and representatives from non-governmental

organizations testified before the House International Relations

Committee Sept. 28, warning that a small number of terrorists hide and

flourish among the growing Middle Eastern, Islamic population of the

remote tri-border region.

"We are up against a new and growing form of international terrorism,"

FBI Assistant Director Robert Bryant warned. "It is loosely structured

and comprised of many groups and persons who use violence to promote

their personal, political, social, or economic beliefs."

He said Latin America has long been one of the most active regions for

terrorist activity, but it is now host to a new brand of terrorist --

the international radical. He added that this type of terrorism was

responsible for the March 17, 1992, car bombing that destroyed the

Israeli embassy in Buenos Aries, for which Hizballah claimed


Hizballah has a "presence" in the tri-border area, where illegal

fundraising, smuggling, gun-running, and drug trafficking are rampant

and where the three national governments have no strong forces, Bryant

said, so that "Hizballah activities can go easily unnoticed."

Although the vast majority of persons of Middle Eastern extraction in

the region are law-abiding, their concentration there enables

terrorists to blend into the population, Bryant told the panel.

This transnational criminal threat "requires a concerted response from

the international law enforcement community. The FBI is pledged to

share counterterrorism intelligence, training, and techniques with our

counterparts" in the Western Hemisphere, he asserted.

The FBI has agents assigned to many U.S. embassies throughout the

region and others serve as attaches to law enforcement organizations

of those countries, he said.

State Department counterterrorism coordinator Philip Wilcox said the

1992 Israeli embassy bombing, the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural

center in Buenos Aires, and the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center

in New York "brought us home to the truth that our hemisphere is also

vulnerable to international terrorism."

Hizballah "is now the major international terrorist threat in Latin

America," he said.

Wilcox supported the FBI's contention that Hizballah has an extensive

network of cells in the tri-border area, as well as in Colombia and


Ruben Beraja of the Argentine Jewish Association said that terrorist

acts can be linked increasingly to drug trafficking.

"We are ... struggling ... to protect our future from the threat of

narcoterrorism, whatever its ideological affiliation," he said.

Barry Mehler, national commissioner of the Anti-Defamation League,

called for the establishment of a commission among the three

governments of the tri-border region "to help control the porous

border." He said Washington should call upon Buenos Aires to support

such a commission and to step up investigations of the embassy and

cultural center bombings.

Committee Chairman Ben Gilman echoed the concerns and statements of

the witnesses. "It is an unsafe world out there, particularly in the

Americas, where we have become the newest targets of these cowardly


"It threatens all of us, our way of life, and our fundamental

freedoms. We must all battle this scourge together in the Americas.

Not to do so serves merely to reward terrorists and encourages more of

the same, whether abroad or here at home."