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22 killed in bomb attack on Jewish groups in Argentina

BUENOS AIRES (AP) - An explosion yesterday morning levelled a seven-storey building housing two Jewish groups, and police said at least 22 people were killed and more than 100 injured.

Two foreigners were detained for questioning as they were about to leave Argentina after the bombing of the Jewish centre. 'The two were delayed as they were about to board a plane,' a presidential press secretary, Raul Burzaco, said. He did not give their nationalities, but the state-owned Telam news agency quoted sources as saying an Iranian man and a German woman had been stopped at the Ezeiza international airport outside Buenos Aires.

An estimated 100 people worked in the building housing the Delegation of Argentine-Israeli Associations, the country's principal Jewish-community organisation, and the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association, a charity group.

The cause of the blast, which occcurred at 10.10am local time, had not been determined. Buildings on the rest of the block were heavily damaged and cars parked near the building were destroyed.

President Carlos Menem said the attack was planned 'from abroad and helped by people here'. He called the perpetrators 'beasts, savages'.

Mr Menem said Israeli security and intelligence agencies were working with Argentine authorities to determine the cause of the explosion. As part of the investigation, Mr Menem ordered Argentina's borders closed. Passengers who had already boarded planes were brought back to airport terminals while investigations were under way.

In March 1992 a bomb destroyed the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, killing at least 28 people and injuring more than 220. Responsibility for that blast was never determined. Israel blamed Muslim fundamentalists for the 1992 bombing, and the Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, indicated he believed yesterday's explosion was also was their work.

Israel's Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, condemned the attack as a 'cowardly, evil and heinous' act. 'Satanic terror has once again hit a civilian target,' he said. 'Israel will continue to hunt down the perpetrators of terror until their annihilation.'