A 1994 plane crash in Panama which killed 21 people was a "terrorist attack," President Juan Carlos Varela said Monday, citing Israeli intelligence reports.

"I have ordered the reopening of the case after intelligence reports" indicated the incident "was a terrorist attack," Varela told reporters.

Varela has just returned from Israel where he held talks with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu last week.

According to the president, the attack was "confirmed by Israeli intelligence".

Most of the 21 people killed were Jewish businessmen operating in Panama's Colon Free Trade Zone.

The crash happened on July 19, 1994 when the plane exploded shortly after taking off from the Enrique Jimenez airport in the Caribbean province of Colon.

The cause of the crash was never clarified.

One of the hypotheses considered at the time was that a Lebanese suicide bomber had detonated an explosive with the aim of killing Jews.

"We are going to have meetings with Panamanian and international authorities to formally request the reopening of the case and to know those responsible for this terrorist attack, where deplorably many Panamanians coming from the Colon free zone lost their lives," Varela said.

The explosion happened a day after a bomb ripped through the offices of a Jewish center in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires, killing 85 people.