18 February 2008
(Yasser Koach to our operatives on a successful mission!) Blogmaster
Uzi Mahnaimi in Tel Aviv, Hala Jaber in Beirut and Jon Swain
The Sunday Times (UK) February 17, 2008
NOTHING seemed very remarkable about the short, bearded man who mingled with other guests on Tuesday evening at a reception in Damascus, the Syrian
capital, to mark the 29th anniversary of Ayatollah Khomeini's Iranian
Yet before the night was over he was dead in the twisted wreckage of his car
and the inevitable assumption was that Mossad, the Israeli foreign
intelligence service, had killed him with an ingeniously planted bomb.
The news spread rapidly that the dead man was Imad Mughniyeh, an elusive
figure known as "the Fox" who had been one of the world's most feared
Robert Baer, a former CIA agent who spent years on his trail, said Mughniyeh
was "probably the most intelligent, most capable operative we've ever run
As the Israelis rejoiced, Iran and Hezbollah, the militant Shi'ite group,
which together had harnessed Mugniyeh's expertise, mourned his death at a
huge funeral in Beirut, where he established his terrorist network.
Mughniyeh's mother, Um Imad, sat amid a sea of black chadors, a lonely,
sombre figure as mourners held their hero's picture aloft.
"If only I had more boys to carry on in his footsteps," she sighed,
confessing that she did not have any pictures of him, even from his
childhood, as he had taken them away. He was the third of her sons to die in
a car bombing.
With a price of $25m on his head, he was always vigilant. Some say he had
had plastic surgery to alter his face in an effort to elude the Americans
and Israelis who blamed him for plane hijackings and other bloody attacks
which killed hundreds of their citizens in the Middle East and as far away
as South America.
He had grown accustomed to living dangerously and there was no reason he
should have feared for his safety last Tuesday as he sipped fruit juice at
the party at the Iranian cultural centre. Mughniyeh was on fairly good terms
with everybody present - almost all the leaders of the Damascus-based
militant groups were represented.
At 10.35pm he decided to go home. Having exchanged customary kisses with his
host, Hojatoleslam Ahmad Musavi, the newly appointed Iranian ambassador,
Mughniyeh stepped into the night.
Minutes later he was seated in his silver Mitsubishi Pajero in a nearby
street when a deafening blast ripped the car apart and killed him instantly.
According to Israeli intelligence sources, someone had replaced the headrest
of the driver's seat with another containing a small high-explosive charge.
Israel welcomed his death but the prime minister's office denied
responsibility. Hezbollah accused the "Zionist Israelis" of killing its
"brother commander" but believed the explosive had been detonated in another
car by satellite.
One witness said: "I held his head in my hands, kissed him farewell. His
face was burnt but intact and he had received serious injuries to his
Whatever the truth about the bomb, Mughniyeh, 45, died as he had lived -
violently. He was a product of the Lebanese civil war that transfixed
western governments 25 years ago.
Born in a south Lebanon village, the son of a vegetable seller, Mughniyeh
joined Force 17, Yasser Arafat's personal bodyguard, when scarcely out of
his teens. After the Palestine Liberation Organisation was forced to leave
Lebanon in 1982, he stayed behind and joined Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shi'ite
Islamic group that emerged in 1985 as a militant force resisting Israeli
He came to the attention of Sheikh Mohammed Fadlallah, Hezbollah's spiritual
leader, and rose quickly up the ranks. He was shaped into a remarkably
effective terrorist as, under the auspices of Iran's Revolutionary Guards,
the organisation grew into one of the deadliest forces fighting Israel and
Western terrorism experts say he was the dynamo behind some of Hezbollah's
most lethal operations. These included the bombing of the American embassy
in Beirut that killed 63 people and the attacks on the US marine and French
paratrooper barracks that left more than 200 dead. It was Mughniyeh's
decision to kidnap Terry Waite, the Church of England envoy, as he tried to
broker the release of other captives.
Another notorious act attributed to him was the hijacking of a TWA flight
when an American passenger, a US navy diver, was shot and his body thrown
onto the runway.
In the 1990s Israel made him a priority target for his involvement in two
attacks in Buenos Aires - the 1992 Israeli embassy bombing, which killed 29,
and a 1994 suicide bomb attack on a Jewish community centre, in which 85
died. Then he went to ground. The FBI placed him on its most-wanted list but
had to use a 20-year-old photograph for its reward posters.
Despite these difficulties, the CIA came close to capturing him. The
Israelis were also hot on his trail. "We tried to knock him down several
times in the late 1980s," revealed David Barkay, a former major in unit 504
of Israeli military intelligence who was in charge of Mughniyeh's file.
"We accumulated intelligence on him, but the closer we got, the less
information we gleaned - no weak points, no women, money, drugs - nothing."
Mughniyeh lost two brothers, Jihad and Fuad, in car bomb explosions in
Beirut. In 2000 he was targeted by an Israeli sniper in southern Lebanon.
But in Meir Dagan, who became head of Mossad in 2002, he faced a committed
opponent under whose leadership the organisation built a strong record in
assassinating Israel's enemies.
Israel fought a bitter 34-day war against Hezbollah in 2006 to eradicate it
in southern Lebanon. It believes that Mughniyeh was instrumental in
rebuilding the group after the war, rearming it with Iranian-made Fateh 110
rockets which are capable of hitting Tel Aviv and which it fears could be
equipped with chemical weapons.
Informed Israeli sources said that at the time of his death Mughniyeh was
working for the Syrians on a terrorist attack against Israeli targets. This
was to avenge Israel's airstrike on what was believed to be a secret nuclear
site in Syria last year.
Since Mughniyeh's death, Israeli embassies and Jewish institutions around
the world have been on high alert. "I've no doubt the Syrians and Iranians
will retaliate," said Barkay.
Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's general secretary, warned in a fiery oration
at Mughniyeh's funeral that Israel had committed a "major stupid mistake".
It was now "open war", he said.
In Lebanon, a close friend of Mughniyeh was certain that he would be avenged
by Hezbollah in an attack that, ironically, he had prepared himself before
his death. "Most likely the retaliation when it comes will be one that had
been planned and masterminded by Imad himself," said Anis Al-Nackash, a
Lebanese expert on Hezbollah.
He said Mughniyeh had prepared a variety of "spectacular" attacks to be
executed by Hezbollah if one of its top leaders was assassinated. These were
now being dusted off and updated.
On the day Mughniyeh was buried, Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister,
summoned Dagan from his cottage in Galilee to Jerusalem.
"It was a one-on-one meeting," said a source. But it is believed that Dagan
was complimented by his boss and told that he would stay as head of Mossad
until the end of 2009.
Time will tell whether, as Israel fervently hopes, Mughniyeh's death has
gravely weakened his organisation or if the effect has merely been to harden
The Israeli security service, Mossad, is thought to have killed six other
militants abroad since Meir Dagan became director in August 2002:
December 2002 Ramzi Nahara, Israeli agent who defected to Hezbollah and
planned attacks against Israel. Dagan knew him personally. Killed in Lebanon
by car bomb
March 2003 Abu Mohammed Al-Masri, Al-Qaeda member building cell to target
Israeli border with Lebanon. Killed by car bomb in Lebanon
August 2003 Ali Hussein Saleh, Hezbollah explosives expert. Killed by car
bomb in Beirut
July 2004 Ghaleb Awali, Hezbollah official with links to activists in Gaza
Strip. Killed by car bomb in Beirut
September 2004 Izz el-Deen al-Sheikh Khalil, Hamas official liaising between
headquarters in Syria and members in Gaza and West Bank. Killed by car bomb
May 2006 Mahmoud Majzoub, Islamic Jihad official liaising with Hezbollah.
Killed by car bomb blast in Lebanon
Obama's true agenda...Throw Israel Under the Bus
JOHN VOIGHT ON OBAMA'S DISTAIN FOR ISRAEL
A message to the Jewish people and the entire world
Chronicles I - 16:15-18: "Forever remember His covenant that he commanded forever; That He made with Abraham and swore to Isaac; and confirmed in a decree for Jacob, for Israel, as an eternal covenant; saying to You I will give the Land of Cannan as your alloted heritage"