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Clandestine Operation Targeted Arab Suspects

Following the 1994 bombing of Argentina’s AMIA center, Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay launched a secret operation in coordination with Washington to disrupt the activities of suspect Arabs in the region, according to officials closely associated with what was called “Operation Double Top.”

“We realized the best way was to hit their dirty businesses in the region,” said a former high-ranking Argentine official closely involved in the operation. “We didn’t want them to work in peace, so we used methods you could call a little ‘mafiosi’ — disrupting commercial operations, burning containers, blocking bank accounts, stealing their passports, and the police arrested them.”

While a Paraguayan source insisted that prosecutors authorized all the operations, an Argentine intelligence official acknowledged that the reality on the ground was different. He and others noted that during the last few years, several Arab suspects died in car accidents in the region.

In November 2001, the Lebanese embassy requested information from Paraguay’s Foreign Ministry about an accident that seriously wounded two Lebanese, according to a copy of the complaint seen by the Forward.

Several participants in the operation agreed that the work was closely coordinated with the United States. No American official would comment on the operation.

“The tri-border command served as a political cover for the underground operations conducted by the secret services, the police and other security agencies,” the former top Argentine official said. “We found people from Hamas, Hezbollah and the Egyptian Jemaa Islamiya.”

The main success was the arrest in January 1999 of El Said Mokhles, a Jemaa Islamiya member who is wanted in Egypt for his alleged role in the 1997 attack on tourists in Luxor. He is appealing his extradition.

Operation Double Top ground to a halt two years ago, participants said, because of domestic problems in Argentina and because of Brazil’s reluctance to participate in operations.

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