|Sunday, 15 March 2009 22:52|
Imad Fayez Mughniyah
Born: December 7, 1962, Tayr Dibba, Lebanon
Died: February 12, 2008, Damascus, Syria
Cause of death: Car bomb
Notable because: Leadership member of Hezbollah who may have killed more Americans than any other militant in the middle east. Died in a car bomb believed by many to be a Mossad hit. One of the world’s most wanted men, on an FBI wanted list with a US$5 million bounty on his head.
Imad Fayez Mughniyah was a senior member of the Hezbollah organization. He was alternatively described as the head of its security section, a senior intelligence official and as a founder of the organization. Mugniyah has been associated with the Beirut barracks and United States Embassy bombings in 1983, which killed over 350, as well as the kidnapping of dozens of foreigners in Lebanon in the 1980s. He was indicted in Argentina for his alleged role in the 1992 Israeli Embassy attack in Buenos Aires. The most high profile attacks for which it is claimed he is responsible took place in the early 1980s, shortly after the founding of Hezbollah. He is thought to have killed more Americans than any other militant before the 9/11 attacks, and the bombings and kidnappings he is alleged to have organized are credited with all but eliminating American presence in Lebanon in the 1980s.
Information about him is limited. He is reported to have used the alias of Hajj by the American FBI, and to have been called Abu Dokhan - Arabic for "smoke-bearer" or "father of smoke" - according to American fiction writer Richard Couch, allegedly because of his skill at disappearing when being pursued. Mughniyah was included in the European Union's list of wanted terrorists. and had a US$5 million bounty on the U.S. Most Wanted Terrorist list.
Imad Mughniyah was killed on February 12, 2008 by a car bomb blast around 11:00 pm local time in the Kfar Suseh neighborhood of Damascus, Syria
Mughniyah was born in Tayr Dibba to a family of poor farmers who harvested olives and lemons in the orchards of Lebanon's southern Shiite heartland. CIA South Group records state that Mughniyeh lived in Ayn Al-Dilbah, a ghetto in South Beirut.
Mughniyeh is described as a popular boy and a "natural entertainer" who cracked jokes at family weddings and "worked the crowd with a confidence unusual for a youth his age."
In the mid-1970s, Mugniyah organized the "Student Brigade," a unit of 100 young men which became part of Yasser Arafat's elite Force 17. According to Eshmael, Mughniyeh was a favorite of Arafat, who spoke openly of his skill and intelligence. Mugniyah joined Arafat's retinue of personal bodyguards and shadowed the Palestinian guerrilla leader around Beirut's southern suburbs with a Kalashnikov slung over his shoulder. In the Jerusalem Post, Khaled Abu Toameh writes that Mughniyeh's role upon joining Force 17 in 1976 was that of "a sniper targeting Christians on the Green Line dividing West and East Beirut."
Mughniyeh was a student in the engineering department at the American University of Beirut in 1981 when the United States of America gave the "green light" for Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon in pursuit of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
In 1985 Mughniyeh was working as the bodyguard for Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, a spiritual mentor to many in Lebanon's Shiite community whose political consciousness was on the rise. Fadlallah held no formal political role, "opposed violence and sectarian division, and defied growing Iranian influence in Lebanon." On March 8, 1985, the CIA carried out a reprisal operation funded by the Saudis, for the Marine barracks bombing of 1983, in which they attempted to kill Fadlallah by car-bombing. The cleric escaped harm, but the huge explosion wounded 200 and killed 62 in the poor Shiite neighbourhood where he lived. Among the dead were some of Fadlallah's bodyguards, Imad Mughniya's brother, and his close friends. Roger Morris claims that this was a "turning point" in Mughniyeh's life and that it was after this event that he "joined the terrorist arm of the increasingly militant political impulse among Lebanon's Shiites from which Hezbollah soon emerged, and as the resistance movement's chief of security and intelligence, he joined one of history's more vicious chain reactions."
Mughniyah was accused of terrorist attacks in the 1980s and 1990s, primarily against American and Israeli targets. These allegations include the April 18, 1983 bombing of the United States embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, which killed 63 people including 17 Americans. Agreement is not universal on Mughniyah's involvement as Caspar Weinberger, the Secretary of Defense at the time, told PBS in 2001, "We still do not have the actual knowledge of who did the bombing of the Marine barracks at the Beirut Airport, and we certainly didn't then."
Mughniyeh was fingered as the mastermind of the October 23, 1983 simultaneous truck bombings against French paratroopers and the U.S. Marine barracks, attacks which killed 58 French soldiers and 241 Marines. On September 20, 1984, he is alleged to have attacked the US embassy annex building. The United States indicted him (and his collaborator, Hassan Izz al-Din) for the June 14, 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847, which resulted in the death of U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem. He was also linked to numerous kidnappings of Westerners in Beirut through the 1980s, most notably that of Terry Anderson, and William Francis Buckley, who was the CIA station chief in Beirut. Some of these individuals were later killed, such as Buckley, who was brutally beaten. The remainder were released at various times with the last one, Terry Anderson, released in 1991. Mugniyah has also been tied to the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996, which killed 19 Americans and one Saudi citizen.
Mughniyah has been formally charged by Argentina with participating in the March 17, 1992 bombings of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, which killed 29 and the AMIA cultural building in July 1994, killing 86 people. He has also been accused of orchestrating the 2000 abductions of three Israeli soldiers in the northern part of Israel and the kidnapping of Israeli businessman Elchanan Tenenbaum, and the more recent 2006 Israel/Lebanon conflict, killing eight soldiers and abducting two.
While the long international hunt for Mughniyah produced many allegations, they were denied or dismissed by Hezbollah. In a July 2003 interview of Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader told Time Magazine that the U.S. accusations against Mughniyah were "just accusations," and he questioned whether they could provide evidence to condemn Mughniyah. Nasrallah also stated that, "Hajj Imad is among the best freedom fighters in the Lebanese arena. He had a very important role during the occupation [of southern Lebanon by Israel]. But as for his relationship with Hezbollah, we maintain the tradition of not discussing names."
According to Robert Baer, "Mughniyah is probably the most intelligent, most capable operative we’ve ever run across, including the KGB or anybody else. He enters by one door, exits by another, changes his cars daily, never makes appointments on a telephone, never is predictable. He only uses people that are related to him that he can trust. He doesn’t just recruit people." He has been described as "tall, slender, well-dressed and handsome ... penetrating eyes," speaking some English but better French.
Mugniyah has been allegedly linked to Palestinian operations such as the Karine A incident in 2002, where the Palestinian Authority was accused of importing fifty tons of weapons. He was a member of Force 17, an armed branch of the Fatah movement charged with providing security for Yasser Arafat and other prominent PLO officials.
In mid-February 1997, the pro-Israeli South Lebanese Army radio station reported that Iran's intelligence service had dispatched Mughniyah to Lebanon to directly supervise the reorganization of Hezbollah's security apparatus concerned with Palestinian affairs in Lebanon and to work as a security liaison between Hezbollah and Iranian intelligence. Mughniyah also reportedly controlled Hezbollah's security apparatus, the Special Operations Command, which handles intelligence and conducts overseas terrorist acts. Allegedly, although he used Hezbollah as a cover, he reported to the Iranians.
The European Union lists him as "Senior Intelligence Officer of Hezbollah".
Various law enforcement agencies attempted to capture Mughniyah. The United States tried to secure his capture in France in 1986, but were thwarted by French refusal to detain him.
The United States tried to capture him several times afterwards, the first being a 1995 attempt to detain him as the plane he was traveling on was supposed to stop in Saudi Arabia. However, Saudi officials refused to allow the plane to land. The next year, U.S. military personnel planned to seize him off a ship in Doha, Qatar, but the operation was called off. This plan, dubbed Operation RETURN OX, was carried out by ships and sailors of Amphibious Squadron Three (USS Tarawa, USS Duluth, USS Rushmore), Marines of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and Navy SEALs assigned to the U.S. Fifth Fleet. The operation was underway, but was canceled at the last minute when it could not be verified that Mughniyah was actually on board the Pakistani ship.
On October 10, 2001, Mughniyah appeared on the initial list of the FBI's top 22 Most Wanted Terrorists, which was released to the public by President Bush, with a reward of up to $5 million offered for information leading to his arrest. This reward remains outstanding.
The Israeli government made several alleged attempts to assassinate Mughniyah. His brother Fuad Mugniyah was killed in a 1994 Beirut car bombing. (Another brother, Jihad, was killed in a car-bombing assassination attempt on the life of Hezbollah founder Sheikh Fadlallah in 1985, this one rumored to be the work of the CIA via the South Lebanese Army.)
The New Yorker magazine suggested that Mugniyah attended a meeting between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. He was there representing Hezbollah in Lebanon. Mugniyah had been informed that he was at the top of a US military and CIA assassination list. For this reason, he was said to avoid certain areas of Beirut for fear of being killed by CIA SAD paramilitary operatives, or U.S. Special Operations Hunter/Killer teams.
Imad Mughniyah was killed on February 12, 2008 by a car bomb blast around 11:00 pm local time in the Kfar Suseh neighborhood of Damascus, Syria. He had reportedly been the target of the Israeli Mossad in the 1990s, but Israel denied being behind the killing. The U.S. Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell suggested that internal Hezbollah factions or Syria may be to blame for the killing. One indication that Israel may have been involved is that Israeli Channel 2 News choose Mossad chief Meir Dagan for man of the year in 2008, an award thought to intimate that he was responsible for the successful assassination of Mughniyeh.
Without naming a source, the German newspaper Die Welt said it was possible that associates of Assef Shaukat had assassinated Mughniyah in revenge for having tipped the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, about coup plot against him, which the Syrian government had foiled a couple of days before Mugniyah's assassination. Releasing the story Friday in advance of going to print, Die Welt said the Syrian embassy in Berlin had rejected the coup story as utterly untrue. The newspaper said German diplomats were aware of the coup story but had not been able to confirm it as fact.
At Mugniyah's funeral, Hassan Nasrallah appeared via video link and in the lengthy eulogy he delivered for his fallen comrade, he declared: "You crossed the borders. Zionists, if you want an open war, let it be an open war anywhere."
Danny Yatom, former head of Israel's foreign intelligence service, the Mossad, said, "He was one of the most dangerous terrorists ever on Earth."
Lebanese senior cleric Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah said that "the resistance has lost one of its pillars."
Iran condemned the killing as "yet another brazen example of organised state terrorism by the Zionist regime".
According to The Sunday Times, Mughinyah was at a reception marking the 29th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution hosted by Iranian ambassador to Syria, Hojatoleslam Ahmad Musavi. Mughinyah left at 10:35 pm and went to his silver Mitsubishi Pajero nearby. The driver seat headrest had been replaced by one with a high-explosive, which detonated when Mughinyah entered the vehicle. Furthermore, The Times states that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met privately with Mossad director Meir Dagan on the day of Mughniyeh's burial, reportedly to congratulate him.
The Syrian investigation found that he was killed by a car bomb parked nearby and detonated by remote.
The Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai reported that Hezbollah sources said they would retaliate for Mughniyah's death by assassinating Israeli leaders.
On February 27 Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported that several Arab states helped the Mossad carry out the bombing.
The Bush administration welcomed news of his death. A spokesman of the U.S. State Department said: "The world is a better place without this man in it. He was a coldblooded killer, a mass murderer and a terrorist responsible for countless innocent lives lost. One way or another he was brought to justice."
The assassination of Mughniyah was condemned in some parts of the Arab world. In Kuwait, there was a rally mourning his death. A member of Kuwait's parliament asserted "Mugniyah is a martyr hero who shook the grounds beneath the Zionist enemy (Israel) and America," Jordan's largest political party has condemned the assassination as a cowardly crime. According to Iran's Ayatollah Khamanei, "The bloodthirsty Zionists must know that the pure blood of martyrs like Imad Mugniyah will grow hundreds like him and will increase resistance against corruption and atrocities twofold." Over 61 percent of Lebanese believe Hezbollah's retaliation for Imad Mugniyah's killing by Israel would be justified, a poll indicates.
In August 2008, Hezbollah opened a multi-media exhibit in Nabatiye, Lebanon, commemorating Mughniyah as a Hezbollah hero. The exhibit includes display cases containing personal possessions such as his prayer mat, slippers and hairbrush, along with guns, tanks, bloodstained clothing and fake skeletons portraying "the invincible Israeli soldier." One room is a model of "martyrs' heaven." Busloads of schoolchildren are brought in to learn the "culture of resistance."
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 July 2010 09:12|