How Mossad Took Down Hezbollah Terrorist Mastermind Imad Mughniyah
Imad Mughniyah funeral in Beirut Imad Mughniyah Interpol Warrant Picture
February 14, 2008 Source: Getty Images
Source: Bloomberg News
A hat tip to Jon B.
February 12th marked the fifth anniversary of the assassination of Hezbollah terrorist mastermind, Imad Mughniyah. Until 9/11 Mughniyah was the most-wanted terrorist by both the FBI and Interpol for a spectacular series of exploits that killed hundreds, if not thousands of American servicemen, Israelis, Argentine and Panamanian Jews across the Middle East, Europe and Latin America. Mughniyah’s terrorist exploits surpassed even those of Carlos the Jackal. In our 2011 NER report on the aftermath of 9/11 Islamic terrorism we noted:
The presence of Imad Mughniyah, the Hizbullah terror chieftain, assassinated in Damascus in 2008, allegedly by Israel’s Mossad. Mughniyah was involved in the 9/11 planning. Until 9/11 Mughniyah was at the top of the FBI’s Most Wanted terrorist list for his involvement in the planning of the 1983 Marine and French paratrooper barracks and US Embassy attacks in Beirut that killed over 350. Then there was the killing of a US navy diver Robert Stethem in a 1985 skyjacking of a TWA flight, kidnapping of several westerners in Beirut and the torture and murder of CIA station chief, William Buckley.
Israel had its own reasons to take out Mughniyah. He was the organizer of the 1992 Buenos Aries Israeli Embassy bombing that killed 29 injuring more than 242 persons and the bombing in 1994 of the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 injuring hundreds. Then there were the “Khobar Towers suicide bombing in Saudi Arabia in 1996 (19 killed); the U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 (223 killed); the 2000 suicide attack on the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen (17 killed).”
Mughniyah figured prominently in the trial record of the 2011 Iran Links case decision in the Southern District Court of Manhattan as the key figure who facilitated transit between Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran for the so-called Hamburg cell of 9/11 perpetrators. Both the CIA and Mossad had compelling motivation to assassinate Mughniyeh. The informed opinion was that it was Mossad who may have accomplished it.
On the Fifth anniversary of Mughniyah’s assassination Erol Araf published an article in Canada’s National Post, "Death of a master terrorist: How the ‘Iranian Jackal’ was killed", revealing how Mossad, Israel’s Secret Intelligence service, was able to buy critical intelligence, infiltrate a hit team and ultimately kill the Hezbollah terrorist mastermind A bomb in a head rest was triggered as he stepped into his Mitsubishi Pajero upon leaving the Iranian Cultural Center in Damascus. He had been attending the 33rd commemoration of the overthrow of the late Shah’s reign in Tehran by Revolutionary Guards founding the Islamic Regime led by Ayatollah Khomenei and supported by the Carter Administration.
Mughniyah’s legacy remains. Late in January 2013, Argentina concluded an agreement with the Islamic Republic in Iran for a South African type truth commission to reveal his and Iranian Revolutionary Guards controller and present day Defense minister Ahmad Vahidi, wanted under an Interpol warrant for the 1992 Israeli Embassy and 1994 AMIA Jewish Community Center blasts in Buenos Aires. Argentine Jews and Israel objected to the deal negotiated by the morally bankrupt regime of President Kristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Further, we have the recent revelations of the Hezbollah - Qods Force role in perpetrating the July 18, 2012 suicide bombing of a tourist bus in Burgas, Bulgaria (Operation Radwan)-named after Mughniyah) killing 5 Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver injuring dozens. July 18th was the date of the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires. In a February 13, 2012 Iconoclast post, we speculated that the multiple bombings by Iran’s Qods Force against Israeli embassies in New Delhi, Bangkok and Tbilisi, might have been in revenge for Mughniyah’s alleged assassination by Mossad.
Araf’s National Postarticle revealed how Mossad accomplished Mughniyah’s assassination.
On the spy network that Mossad used to buy intelligence with which to track Mughniyah:
Despite his prolific terrorism career and the keen interest in the West, it was not until June, 2007, that Mossad caught a break. The lead came from his birthplace, Tayr Dibba, a small town in south Lebanon, some 15 miles from Israel. It came from one of the operatives of the Ali al-Jarrah network, operated by Mossad. Al-Jarrah himself had been recruited while serving time in an Israeli prison, and his cousin Ziad Jarrah was the hijacker pilot of United Airlines Flight 93. His terrorist credentials were impeccable, which made him the perfect Israeli agent. Ali and his brother Yusuf photographed Hezbollah supply routes and travelled extensively in the region, collecting information on Hezbollah activities in south Lebanon. All of this information he passed back to Israel, collecting perhaps as much as $500,000 for his services.
It was money well spent. A member of al- Jarrah’s network lived in the same village as some of Mughniyah’s family. The informer reported that the terrorist had been moving around major European cities to avoid detection, and that he had changed his appearance. He also had apparently been sending his family occasional postcards from the cities he was hiding in. It wasn’t much to go on, but Israel still sent in a special unit of undercover agents. Blending in with the locals, they worked to verify the intelligence and tap the phones of Mughniyah’s friends and relatives. Israel also began scrutinizing surgical clinics where Mughniyah might have gone to have his appearance altered.
[. . .]
When East Germany collapsed, many of its spies packed up whatever sensitive documents they could obtain and then vanished. They used the sensitive information contained in their stolen files to sustain a comfortable living for themselves even long after the end of the Cold War. Israel set about locating them and offering generous payments to anyone with useful information. Before long, a former Stasi agent reached out to a Mossad agent in Berlin: He had the Stasi file on Mughniyah, and it was available for a price. The meeting between Mossad representatives and the ex-Stasi spy took place at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin. A large file containing Mugniyah’s latest photographs was exchanged for a brief case containing $250,000. Le Carré would have approved.
The Syrian computer theft that revealed Mughniyah’s vulnerability:
As recounted by David Markovsky in his article “The Silent Strike,” published last fall in The New Yorker, in 2007, Israeli agents infiltrated the home of Ibrahim Othman, head of the Syrian Atomic Energy Commission. Once inside, they bugged his computer. While Israel had been looking for information about the Syrian nuclear weapons program (and indeed, in September of 2007, bombed a nascent nuclear reactor inside Syria), access to this computer allowed Israel to compromise other computers inside the supposedly secure networks of Syria’s rulers. Among the information obtained through this operation were details of weapons transfers from Syria to Mughniyah.
These Syrian files, the ex-Stasi documents and the intelligence trickling in from Mossad’s spies in Lebanon began to provide a detailed picture of Mughniyah’s recent locations and activities. Israel was getting closer, and in January of 2008 made a breakthrough — it developed intelligence indicating that Mughniyah was having an affair with a woman in Damascus, and would often spend time with her inside a luxury condo in the Syrian capital. The condo, owned by a cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, was put under surveillance. It is believed that Mossad was able to get photos of Mughniyah as he came and went from this condo, and that they matched the Stasi files.
The final takedown looked like a scenario out a Daniel Silva Mossad thriller series with fictional character, art restorer and hit team leader, Gabriel Allon:
A team would be prepared, safe houses established and communications arranged. It’s believed that a squad consisting of four members was assigned to the operation. One member was charged with tracking the target while remaining in constant communication with command and the safe houses. Another member was responsible for arranging transportation and logistics inside Damascus. The third member was tasked with “cover” — monitoring potential and emerging threats to the operation and, if necessary, creating a diversion. The last member was the executioner.
Out of the safe houses, agents monitored the Iranian Cultural Centre and every place Mughniyah was believed likely to visit. The Damascus safe house had a large garage for wiring vehicles with remotely controlled explosives and altering their appearance, as well as installing mobile command, control and communication equipment. Fake IDs, changes of clothes and plenty of weapons were stashed there, as well, in case anything went wrong. Days before the assassination, Mossad obtained priority access to a recently launched Israeli satellite. State of the art, it was capable of feeding the strike team real-time intelligence 24 hours a day.
The strike team took up positions outside the Iranian Cultural Centre in Damascus, waiting for Mughniyah. At the same time, a few rented vehicles with remote controlled explosives placed inside headrests were parked, at intervals, along the street. Guests began to arrive at 7:30 p.m., with the Iranian ambassador himself arriving at 8. At 9 p.m., a silver Mitsubishi Pajero turned into the street and parked close to where two strike team members were waiting. For a moment the driver and his passenger sat checking the street. Then the passenger door opened and Imad Mughniyah emerged. He wore a dark suit and his beard had been neatly trimmed. He started to walk up the street, passing one of the cars the Israelis had planted there. It exploded, beheading Mughniyah.
By the time the bomb went off, most of the Israeli agents had already packed up and left. Their mission was accomplished. They shut down the safe houses, removed any incriminating evidence, and calmly left the country under false IDs, escaping before there was any reason for Syria to suspect their presence. The two agents who had been on the street with Mughniyah when the bomb exploded had a harder time getting out — with Syrian security on high alert, especially at the airports, the agents are reported to have crossed into Lebanon and then sailed out into the Mediterranean in inflatable boats, to be rescued by an Israeli submarine hiding beneath the waves.
Imad Mughniyah’s assassination by Mossad triggered revenge terrorist bombings by Hezbollah and Iran’s Qods Force. However, the most duplicitous element of his legacy was the ironic perpetration of the Argentine Iran truth commission deal by Hector Timerman, the Argentine leftist Foreign Minister and son of human rights jorunalist and hero, Jacobo Timerman who betrayed the sanctuary given him by Israel. As Isi Liebler wrote in a recent Jerusalem Postop ed:
As foreign minister, Timerman presents himself as a devoted supporter of human rights. Yet he played a central role on behalf of the Argentinean regime in sanitizing the Iranian murderer of his own people. Orchestrating such a pact with one of the world’s worst abusers of human rights makes a mockery of his moral pretensions.
He also clearly relishes attacking Israel, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the Jewish state was responsible for saving his father’s life. Only last month, he compared the UK’s control of the Falkland Islands, which Argentina claims, to Israel’s “colonial” control of the West Bank.
It is nauseating to see such despicable behavior by the Argentinean government being implemented by a politically far-left Jewish scoundrel.
Nevertheless, Mughniyah’s assassination by Mossad, to use the Irish expression “tis a benefit”.
To be frank, right now, in the current state of play of Israel's - and the rest of the infidel world's - self-defence against the Global Jihad, we didn't need to know any of this stuff, fascinating and downright impressive though it might be.
I repeat, we didn't need to know anything about how it was done.
It was done, and it was done very cleverly. That's all that needed to be said, for now, and indeed, for at least twenty years down the track, if not more.
Loose lips sink ships.
Making this kind of thing public, now, is (unless enough important details have been suppressed, or altered in cleverly misleading ways) merely handing the the Enemy a pile of information which can be used to prevent anything similar from ever being achieved, henceforward.
17 Feb 2013 Jan P Christina:
In general, you are correct about keeping information secret.
However, in this case, the information is probably well known by Syrian intelligence. After all, the unexploded cars were still there.
Just think, terrorists can't trust their own buddies and their former Communist supporters.