|Arch-terrorist explodes in Damascus, responsible for hundreds of murders |
|By Israel Insider staff February 13, 2008|
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| Imad Mughniyeh, Hizbullah's supreme commander and chief of operations, was killed in the heart of the Syrian capital when a bomb under the seat of his car exploded, apparently detonated by remote control.|
Hizballah accused Israel of the assassination, but Damascus -- embarrassed as it was when Israel cut through its air defenses last September -- merely reported the incident and said it was launching an investigation. Hizballah TV, by contrast, interrupted its broadcasts Wednesday to announce his death. Its leaders are reportedly conferring in Beirut on how to retaliate. A higher regimen of security has been imposed at Israeli embassies and Jewish centers around the world.
In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office denied that Israel was behind the killing. "Israel rejects any attempt by terrorist organisations to attribute to it any implication in this affair," a statement said. "We have nothing else to add."
But senior Israeli figures welcomed news of Mughniyeh's death, and the news media predicted that Hezbollah would try to carry out revenge attacks against Israeli targets. But the northern border remained quiet but tense. In Gaza, Palestinian fired a rocket that his a house in Sderot, supposedly in retaliation for the terror leader's death.
Hassan Nasrallah is expected to eulogize the dead man at his funeral in Beirut Thursday, but he will not do so in person, knowing full well that he may be next on the list. The funeral tomorrow falls on the third anniversary of the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri.
Mughniyeh, generally considered among the world's most wanted terrorists, is blamed for some of the most heinous attacks against Israel, Jews, and the United States, including the abduction of two IDF reservists in 2006, the bombing of US embassies in Africa, and the bombings of Israel's embassy and later a Jewish community center in Argentina in the early 1990s, whcih claimed between them more than 100 lives.
Mughniyeh was also implicated in the 1983 bombing of the US Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut which killed over 350. He also apparently had strong ties with Al Qaida and Osama Bin Lan. Because he was Hizbullah's personal conduit to Al Qaida, western intelligence agencies suspect that he was also involved in the 9/11 attacks. Born in Tyre, Lebanon, in 1962, Mughniyeh -- of Palestinian descent -- gained attention after taking a leading role in the killing of Christian Lebanese during the Lebanese internecine fighting during the 1970s.
Fatah officials told The Jerusalem Post that he was very close to former Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat when the PLO was based in Beirut. "His nickname was tha'lab [the fox], and today he's considered the second important figure in Hizbullah after Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah. We're very proud to have had a Palestinian holding such a high position in Hizbullah," said a Fatah official who said he knew Mughniyeh well during the '70s and '80s.
When the IDF forced the PLO to leave Lebanon in 1982, Arafat entrusted Mughniyeh with transferring the organization's weapons to Lebanese militias allied with the Palestinians. Mughniyeh, who refused to leave Beirut with the PLO leadership, joined the Shi'ite Amal militia headed by Nabih Berri. He and Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, who was then a member of Amal, later left the movement to form Hizbullah, the Post reported.
He was blamed for the 1983 bombings of the US Embassy and barracks housing US Marines and French paratroopers serving in the Multinational Force in Lebanon. Some 350 people were killed, and the attack led to the departure of the Americans and French from the region.
"Mughniyeh was one of the most dangerous and cruel terrorists," former Mossad chief and Labor MK Danny Yatom said today. "This is a huge achievement for the war against terror."
In 1985, Mughniyeh was believed to have been one of the terrorists who commandered a TWA flight enroute to Rome, diverting it to Beirut. He was later indicted in the US for murdering a hostage on board, a US Navy diver.
On October 10, 2001 Mughniyeh appeared on the FBI's first "Top 22 Most Wanted Terrorists" list, with a reward of $5 million offered for information leading to his capture.
He has also been linked to the Karine A weapons ship that Arafat tried to use to smuggle arms into the Gaza Strip in 2001 as well as the kidnapping of three IDF soldiers in October 2000 by Hizbullah in addition to the abduction of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser in the summer of 2006.
Mughniyeh was considered Hizbullah's chief liaison with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and was believed to have spent most of his time in Tehran, enjoying tight Iranian security. Outside Iran, he was reported to not sleep in the same place twice and to constantly be looking over his shoulder. Today he forgot to look under his seat.
In January 2006, Mughniyeh reportedly traveled with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Damascus for a meeting with Nasrallah, Hamas leader Khaled Mashal and Islamic Jihad chief Ramadan Salah. He was not a political leader but an operations man, specializing in spectacular killing.
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