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Monday, 24 September, 2001, 18:45 GMT 19:45 UK
Argentina Jewish bomb trial starts
The aftermath of the bomb attack on a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires
The 1994 bomb attacked shocked Argentina
The trial has begun of 20 people accused of involvement in a car bomb attack on a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires in 1994, which killed 86 people and injured 300.

Two hundred police surrounded the specially fortified courthouse, amid tension in the capital fuelled by the strikes on America.

A BBC correspondent says the US terror incidents remind Argentines of the horror of their own worst ever terrorist attack.

Grieving relatives of the victims of the September 11 attacks on the US
America's recent tragedy awakens painful memories in Argentina
Those on trial are not charged with carrying out the attack - Argentina, Israel and the United States have laid the blame on Middle Eastern guerrillas backed by Iran.

But Argentine prosecutors say five of those now going on trial, including four former police officers, provided the attackers with the stolen vehicle used in the bombing.

The defendants say they are not guilty, while Iran has rejected claims that it was in any way involved in the attack.

Cross-border probe

Lawyers on the case say that it could shed light on the little-known world of Islamic militants currently being investigated following the recent attacks in America.

The authorities have not said if their investigation is close to finding those who actually carried out the attack, but have acknowledged the investigation extends beyond Argentina's borders.

For at least six months more than 1,200 witnesses will give evidence before a panel of three judges in a specially fortified court.

Standing trial are 15 former Argentine police officers and five civilians allegedly involved in a stolen car ring.

The most serious charges are against five people who are accused of knowingly providing a van to the attackers, who then packed it with explosives before driving it into the community centre.

The blast completely destroyed the seven-story building of the Argentine Israeli Mutual Aid Association.

Families' anger

If found guilty of supplying the vehicle the four former Argentine police officers and a car salesman face life in prison.

The BBC's correspondent in Buenos Aires, Lourdes Heredia, says that for the victims' families this trial is only part of the investigation and they feel there are still too many unanswered questions.

She says Jewish leaders in Argentina also claimed a lack of political will has stopped attempts to find those responsible behind the bombing.

Argentina's 300,000-strong Jewish community is the biggest in Latin America and the seventh largest in the world.

See also:

23 Dec 00 | Americas
Argentina bombing suspect extradited
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