Analysis: A History of Targeted Killings Attributed to the Mossad

Top left: Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, Fadi al-Batsh, Fathi Shaqaqi, Abu Muhammad al-Masri and Dariush Rezaei-Nejad

The New York Times revealed on Nov. 13 that Israeli operatives, at the behest of the United States, killed Abu Muhammad al-Masri, a senior Al Qaeda leader in the line of succession on Aug. 7 in Tehran. The killing of al-Masri by Israeli operatives follows a decades old pattern of targeted killings by the Mossad.

FDD’s Long War Journal has compiled the following list of notable targeted killings attributed to the Mossad.

Abu Muhammad al-Masri and Maryam al-Masri

A tweet by Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency on Aug. 7, reported that an “Arabic-speaking father and daughter” were shot and killed in their vehicle on Pasadran street in Tehran, Iran.

A little over three months later, The New York Times revealed the pair killed in Tehran were Al Qaeda’s Abu Muhammad al-Masri and his daughter Maryam al-Masri, the widow of Hamza bin-Laden, the son of former Al Qaeda chief Osama bin-Laden.

According to the report, the pair were killed when two gunmen on a motorcycle pulled up beside the vehicle al-Masri was driving and fired five shots from a pistol fitted with a silencer.

Additionally, Israel’s News Channel 12 shed light on why Israel became involved in al-Masri’s killing.

Citing Western intelligence sources, al-Masri planned to “attack Israeli and Jewish targets.” The killing of al-Masri was a “clean operation that was carried out without incident,” the Channel 12 report stated.

Fadi al-Batsh

In Apr. 2018, Fadi al-Batsh, a Palestinian engineer and member of Hamas, was killed when two men on a motorcycle fired approximately one dozen shots at him as he walked down a street in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lampur.

According to information obtained by The Times, al-Batsh was part of a “training and fundraising network operated from Gaza by Hamas, whose network stretches across the world and has a presence in the UK.”

Additionally, the money raised by the network was funneled to Gaza and the West Bank for Hamas’ military wing al-Qassam Brigades to operate against Israeli targets.

Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan and Dariush Rezaei-Nejad

On Jan. 11, 2012, a motorcycle pulled up alongside Ahmadi-Roshan’s silver Peugeot 405 and stuck a magnetic charge to the door he was sitting beside. The magnetic charge detonated killing Ahmadi-Roshan as the assailants drove away.

According to reports, Ahmadi-Roshan was a chief chemist working on Iran’s nuclear program.

Less than six months before the killing of Ahmadi-Roshan, another scientist, Rezaei-Nejad, was shot and killed Jul. 23, 2011, by assailants on a motorcycle in Tehran.

Like his counterpart Ahmadi-Roshan, Rezaei-Nejad was reportedly working on Iran’s nuclear program, although it remains unconfirmed what role he played in it.

Fathi Shaqaqi

On Oct. 26, 1995, Shaqaqi was shot and killed outside the seaside town of Sliema, Malta. Two men on a motorycle drove up to Shaqaqi as he walked down a sidewalk and fired five shots from a pistol equipped with a silencer. Shaqaqi had just returned from Libya where he had met with the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar Qaddafi, to urge him to stop expulsions of Palestinians from the country.

Shaqaqi, the founder of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, had long been accused by Israeli intelligence of masterminding suicide bombings against Israelis. He was also a key player in forming the National Alliance, a coalition of eight PLO factions including Islamic Jihad and Hamas who rejected peace with Israel.

A pattern of assassinations

The killings mentioned above share similar characteristics. All involved assassins on motorcycles, the operations were conducted in countries considered hostile to Israel and those killed posed a threat to the country’s security.

There are more notable instances where the Mossad was reportedly behind targeted killings: Hezbollah’s Imad Mughniyeh, Black September’s Ali Hassan Salameh, Hamas’ Mahmoud al-Mabhouh and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s Wadi Hadad.

It is noteworthy to mention the Mossad rarely admits responsibility for targeted killings. There are rare occasions when a government official hints of Israel’s involvement in targeted killings, but generally they remain a mystery.

As seen with the killing of al-Masri, neither Iran, the United States, Al Qaeda or Israel have officially mentioned anything about the three-month-old assassination. This saves Iran from having to explain its documented relationship with Al Qaeda and how Israel, a chief enemy of Iran, was able to operate inside the country without being detected by Iranian intelligence.

Joe Truzman is an editor and senior research analyst at FDD's Long War Journal focused primarily on Palestinian armed groups and non-state actors in the Middle East.

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