Hezbollah terrorist leader Imad Mugniyah killed in Syria
Imad Mugniyah, Iranian operative and leader of Hezbollah's military wing, was killed in Damascus, Syria. Click image to view.
Imad Mugniyah, the leader of Hezbollah's military wing and a senior officer in Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, was killed in yesterday's car bombing in Damascus, Syria. Mugniyah was behind multiple terror attacks against US, Israel, and other nations, and most famously the 1983 Beirut suicide attacks which killed 241 US Marines and 58 French paratroopers. Hezbollah has confirmed Mugniyah's death, and has issued the following statement:
With pride and honor, we announce the martyrdom of a great resistance leader who joined the procession of Islamic Resistance martyrs. After a life full of Jihad, sacrifices and accomplishments lived with a longing to martyrdom, Islamic Resistance leader Hajj Imad Mugniyah (Hajj Radwan) was assassinated by "Israeli" criminal hands. The martyr, may his soul rest in peace, had been a target for the Zionists for more than 20 years. Almighty Allah has chosen him to be a martyr on the hands of His Prophet's killers who know that we have a long battle with them and the blood of martyrs especially our leaders has always taken our resistance to a higher and stronger level, just like when our two great leaders, Sheikh Ragheb Harb and Sayyed Abbas Moussawi were martyred.
We pledge to continue the martyr's path until achieving complete victory, God willing. We offer our sincere condolences to the martyr's family and his brothers in arms and we congratulate all resistance fighters for the Divine Legion of Honor.
The culprits of the car bombing in Syria are unclear. Syria is a police state, and security would be tight for a senior Hezbollah and Qods Force leader such as Mugniyah.
Imad Mugniyah's car after the explosion. Image from Al Manar.
Hezbollah and Iran are blaming Israel for Mugniyah's death. "This action is yet another brazen example of organized state terrorism by the Zionist regime," said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali. Israel has denied any involvement in Mugniyah's death.
But Israel was very likely behind Mugniyah's death. The method of assassination -- by booby-trapped automobile -- strongly suggests that Israel is responsible. The Jerusalem Post reported the car's driver's seat and the rear seat were "blown away by the force of the blast" in a well-placed bomb.
The Jerusalem Post's report of a well-placed car bomb seems to be confirmed by Al Jazeera reporter Abdul Hamid Tawfiq, who is reporting from Damascus. "When taking a close look at the car, we noticed that it was not burnt or blackened, but the driver's and passengers' seats were damaged." Tawfiq said. He believed that a bomb had been planted under the driver's seat.
This description matched the assassination Izz El-Deen Sheikh Khalil, a key Hamas operative in Damascus, who was killed by Israeli intelligence in September 2004.
Recent photo of Imad Mugniyah, shown on Al Manar, Hezbollah's television network. Click image to view.
Mugniyah began his career in terrorism in the 1970s with Force 17, the personal bodyguard detachment for Yassar Arafat, and later joined Hezbollah. His more infamous terror attacks include the April 1983 bombing of the US embassy in Beirut, killing 63; the October 1983 simultaneous truck bombings on the US Marine and French paratrooper barracks in Beirut, killing 241 Marines and 58 French soldiers; the hijacking of TWA 847; the kidnappings and murders of US military, intelligence and diplomatic personnel in Beirut; the bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1992, killing 29 people; the bombing of a Jewish cultural center in 1994, killing 86 people. He is suspected of direct involvement in the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 US servicemen. He was also behind the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers in northern Israel, the event that triggered the Israel-Hezbollah War in July 2006. Mugniyah likely played a role in the establishment of Iran's ratlines into Iraq and the creation of the Special Groups, which have been built to mirror Hezbollah.
Mugniyah had extensive links with the Iranian intelligence services, and was directly linked to al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden and former al Qaeda in Iraq commander Abu Musab al Zarqawi. Mugniyah was on FBI's list of 22 most wanted terrorists, with a $5 million dollar reward for information leading to his capture. US Special Forces aborted a raid to capture Mugniyah in the Persian Gulf in 1996. He was believed to have visited Syria in January 2006, attending a meeting with Iranian President Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Assad.
Mugniyah likely played a support role in al Qaeda's Sept. 11 attacks on the US. The 9/11 Commission Report was explicit about Iran's connections with al Qaeda. "The relationship between al Qaeda and Iran demonstrated that Sunni-Shia divisions did not necessarily pose an insurmountable barrier to cooperation in terrorist operations." Contacts between Iran, Hezbollah, and al Qaeda were established in Sudan in the early 1990s. "Al Qaeda members received advice and training from Hezbollah," according the 9/11 Commission Report. Many of al Qaeda's Sept. 11 hijackers transited through Iran. "After 9/11, Iran and Hezbollah wished to conceal any past evidence of cooperation with Sunni terrorists associated with al Qaeda."
Hezbollah is essentially the Lebanese branch of Iran's Qods Force. Mugniyah is also a senior leader in Qods Force, the special operations branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. Dr. Magnus Ranstorp, an expert on Hezbollah describes Mugniyah as standing "with one foot within Hezbollah (reporting to [hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah directly) and with one foot in Iran inside the architectures of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) and the al-Qods unit within the Iranian Pasdaran [Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps]." Dr. Ranstorp also said, "there are two Iranian representatives (from the Iranian embassy in Beirut/Damascus) that provide a direct link on matters that require strategic guidance or Iranian assistance or arbitration" to Hezbollah's executive Shura, or council.