Paraguayan officials deny claims of terrorist presence

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BUENOS AIRES — Reports that a squad of Hezbollah suicide bombers was found on Paraguay's border with Argentina have been denied by authorities in both countries.

Despite these denials, northeastern Argentina's so-called "triangle area" on the border with Brazil and Paraguay was placed on alert after intelligence reports claimed that 20 suicide bombers had arrived in Paraguay from the Middle East.

Jose Werner Arnhardt, chief of police in the northeastern Argentine province of Misiones, said the terrorists were detected last week by local and Brazilian intelligence personnel in the Paraguayan city of Ciudad del Este, which is home to a large Arab community and is a suspected haven for fundamentalist activists.

Arnhardt said the terrorists were planning to launch attacks against Jewish and Israeli targets in Argentina to avenge Israel's cross-border fighting with Hezbollah gunmen in Lebanon.

Argentine and Paraguayan federal authorities, however, flatly denied Arnhardt's reports.

Argentine Interior Minister Carlos Vladimiro Corach told reporters, "There is no solid information on terrorists operating in that area, let alone of 20 of them arriving recently."

He conceded, however, that the border area was on alert "just in case."

According to some local news reports Monday, the Paraguayan police have arrested 10 Arabs in possession of weapons. No details were available regarding where the arrests took place or the identities of those arrested.

Paraguayan authorities would neither confirm nor deny the reports.