The detained Iranians were planning to carry out attacks on Israeli and Jewish targets in Argentina, an Israeli TV report said.
By World Israel News Staff
One of five men aboard an Iranian-linked plane grounded near Buenos Aires last week is a captain in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp’s elite Quds Force, Paraguay’s intelligence chief said over the weekend.
Argentina, for its part, dismissed his remarks as conjecture, the AFP news agency said.
The man, identified as Captain Gholamreza Ghasemi, was detained along with four other Iranian and 14 Venezuelan crew members when the plane was grounded. The five Iranians had their passports confiscated.
The Mahan Air aircraft, leased to a Venezuelan state-owned Emtrasur airline a year ago, was seized by authorities after reportedly transporting car parts from Mexico to Buenos Aires.
According to intelligence chief Esteban Aquino, Ghasemi was a member of the Quds force’s shadowy unit that carries out attacks outside of Iran.
However, Argentine Minister of Security Anibal Fernandez said that while the Paraguayan official “has his right to say whatever he wants… I’m not going to talk about conjecture.”
“We abide by due process. And according to the official documentation, there is no specific relationship with terrorist organizations, according to all the databases,” Fernandez was cited as saying.
The U.S. imposed sanctions on Mahan Air more than a decade ago over its support for the IRGC. Emtrasur line, which is a subsidiary of Conviasa, is also under U.S. sanctions.
Israel’s Channel 13 last week said that the detained Iranians were planning to carry out attacks on Israeli and Jewish targets in Argentina and was the reason for their trip to the South American country.
“The State of Israel is particularly concerned about the activities of the Iranian airlines Mahan Air and Qeshm Fars Air in Latin America,” Israel’s embassy in Buenos Aires said in a statement.
The airline companies were “engaged in arms trafficking and the transfer of persons and equipment operating for the Quds Force, under sanctions from the United States for being involved in terrorist activities.”
The Israeli embassy statement expressed “recognition for the rapid, effective and firm action of the Argentine security forces that identified in real-time the potential threat” posed by the aircraft.
The U.S.’ envoy in Buenos Aires thanked Argentine authorities.
“We are following with great interest the judicial and law enforcement investigations into the crew and the plane,”Ambassador Marc Stanley said.
Iran has vowed to avenge the killing of an Quds Force officer last month, for which it blamed Israel.
Israel in the past week has urged citizens to leave Turkey immediately, saying Iran was planning multiple attacks there, including abductions and shooting sprees.
Interpol still has outstanding arrest warrants for former Iranian leaders suspected of involvement in the bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires in 1994 that killed 85 people and wounded hundreds more.
A terror attack two years earlier on Israel’s embassy in Argentina saw 29 killed and hundreds more wounded.