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Prosecutor in Argentina bombing inquiry found dead

Last week, special prosecutor Nisman accused President Kirchner of agreeing not to punish at least two former Iranian officials in the case of a 1994 bombing at a Jewish center in Buenos Aires.

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In this May 29, 2013 file photo, Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor investigating the 1994 bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association community center, talks to journalists in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Nisman who accused the government of secret deals with Iran over the investigation was found shot dead at his apartment early Monday Jan. 19, 2015. He was due to participate in a closed-door session with Congress over his claim last week that Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Foreign Minister Hector Timerman covered up a deal with Iran.

AP/Natacha Pisarenko

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A special prosecutor who had accused Argentine President Cristina Fernandez of shielding Iranian suspects in the South American country's worst terrorist attack was found shot dead, authorities said Monday, a development that drew outrage from Jewish leaders.

Alberto Nisman, who was set to testify Monday in a Congressional hearing about the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center, was found in the bathroom of his Buenos Aires apartment late Sunday, federal prosecutor Viviana Fein told Telam, Argentina's official news agency.

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"We can confirm that it was a gunshot wound, .22 caliber," she said, adding that it was too early in the investigation to know what had happened.

Nisman was appointed 10 years ago by Fernandez's late husband, then President Nestor Kirchner, to investigate the 1994 bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people and injured more than 200.

Argentina has one of the largest concentrations of Jews outside of Israel, with estimates ranging around 200,000, mostly in Buenos Aires.

In 2013, Argentina and Iran reached an agreement to investigate the attack, which remains unsolved. That year, Nisman released an indictment accusing Iran and Hezbollah of organizing the blast. Iran denies any involvement.

Last week, Nisman accused Fernandez and other senior Argentine officials of agreeing not to punish at least two former Iranian officials in the case. He asked a judge to call Fernandez and others, including Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, for questioning.

"The president and her foreign minister took the criminal decision to fabricate Iran's innocence to sate Argentina's commercial, political and geopolitical interests," Nisman said last week.

Fernandez has yet to comment on the allegations, but administration officials have called the prosecutor's allegations ludicrous.

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A federal judge had begun the process of deciding whether to hear the complaint and whether anyone should be summoned for questioning.

Opposition Congresswoman Patricia Bullrich told local news media that Nisman told her he had received threats after denouncing the president.

Late Sunday, federal police agents in charge of Nisman's protection alerted their superiors that he wasn't answering phone calls, according to a statement from the Health Ministry. When he also didn't answer the door, they decided to alert family members, according to the statement.

When Nisman's mother wasn't able to open the door because a key was in the lock on the other side, a locksmith was called to open it, the ministry said. A .22 caliber handgun and a shell casing were found next to Nisman's body.

Israel's foreign ministry expressed "deep sorrow" over Nisman's death.

"Nisman, a courageous, venerable jurist who fought intrepidly for justice, acted with determination to expose the identities of the terrorists and their dispatchers," a ministry statement said.

Within hours after news of Nisman's death spread, a well-known group called "Indignant Argentines" called for demonstrations later Monday in several areas of Buenos Aires.

"Nisman died but his denouncement does not," Sergio Bergman, a prominent rabbi in Buenos Aires, posted on Twitter. "Our sorrow and condemnation will result in more memory, truth and justice!"