Imad Moughniyah, killed by a car bomb in the Syrian capital Damascus on Tuesday, was a top commander in the Hezbollah Shiite militia. He was high on Israel's hitlist, though officials deny involvement in his violent death.
The career of Imad Moughniyah, a military leader of Lebanon’s Shiite militia Hezbollah, came to an abrupt end on Tuesday after a car bomb exploded in the upscale residential district of Kafar Sousse in the Syrian capital of Damascus.
Hunted by Interpol for his alleged role in the 1994 attack against an Argentine Israeli association in Buenos Aires, in which 85 were killed and 300 injured, Moughniyah was viewed by Western and Israeli intelligence services as one of “the most dangerous terrorists”.
A day after his killing, Syria issued its first official reaction to the assassination, calling it a "terrorist act," according to the official SANA news agency.
A “key figure” in the Hezbollah command structure, Moughniyah served as an operational link between the Lebanese Shiite movement and Iran, according to Jean-Marie Quemener, France 24’s Beirut correspondent. Forced into hiding, he became a major concern for Western security forces over the last two decades.
The news of his death was first announced by Hezbollah, which promptly blamed Israel for the “assassination”. A source close to the organization’s top brass, who did not want to be named, told France 24 that Hezbollah was “in a state of shock”.
“Israel is behind this murder, designed to cripple Hezbollah by depriving it of one of its leaders,” said the source, speaking from southern Lebanon. Noting that Moughniyah was under a constant threat from Israeli intelligence operatives, the source said, it was why, “in recent times, he was constantly moving backwards and forwards between Iran and Syria. He had reduced his stays in Lebanon because the country was no longer safe (for him).”
Israel, however, has denied any involvement in Tuesday’s killing.
Reacting to his death in Washington on Wednesday, a US State Department spokesman said, “The world is a better place without this man in it. He was a cold-blooded killer, a mass murdered and a terrorist responsible for countless innocent lives.”
Wanted by Israel and the US
A day after his death, some experts and political figures in the region said they were not really surprised by the news of Moughniyah’s death. He was, after all, high in the US and Israeli wanted lists.
“A number of countries were after him,” retired Lebanese general Wehbe Katicha told France 24. “First of all, as a leading and influential member of Hezbollah, the Israelis wanted him (…). But he was also wanted by the United States for his alleged involvement in the attacks against US marines and the US embassy in 1983.”
The former Lebanese senior army official refused to rule out any hypotheses in the murder plot. Indeed, recalling Syria and Iran’s firm grip on Hezbollah and its leaders, he even suggests the Shiite movement’s two allies may have allowed the killing to take place.
“The King of Terror”
Moughniyah’s name appeared regularly in the Arab media since the 1980s, when he was to be behind a wave of Western hostage-taking in Lebanon.
His suspected activities had earned him a sizeable file in Western intelligence services. He was accused of sponsoring several terrorist attacks and kidnappings during Lebanon’s brutal civil war.
In addition to the 1984 kidnapping of William Buckley, the CIA’s Beirut chief, Moughniyah was also accused of organizing the double attack against US marines and French soldiers on a mission in Lebanon in 1983.
Marie Seurat, the wife of French hostage Michel Seurat who was killed in Lebanon in 1986, expressed her relief on Wednesday, following news of the assassination of the man who was allegedly involved in her husband’s kidnapping. “It is an immense relief to know that this murderer has finally been killed,” she told the AFP. “At last, justice is done,” she added, “though I would have preferred seeing him answer for his crimes before an international tribunal”.
In a book entitled, “See No evil” (2002), the author and former member of the CIA’s “clandestine operations” Robert Bauer called Moughniyah a “pathological murderer”. According to Bauer, the senior Hezbollah figure was “the most dangerous terrorist” the US agency has had to face so far. Elusive, “he would enter through one door and escape through another,” said Bauer.
In 2005, security expert Jack Wheeler suggested Moughniyah’s ability to cause harm was superior to that of al Qaeda’s leader Osama Bin Laden. The “most dangerous” terrorist, he argued, is a man “we rarely hear of. His name: Imad Moughniyah. He’s the King of Terror”.
Date created : 2008-02-13