CIA and Mossad Killed Senior Hizbullah Figure Imad Mughniyeh in 2008 Car Bombing

(Washington Post) Adam Goldman and Ellen Nakashima - On Feb. 12, 2008, Imad Mughniyeh, Hizbullah's international operations chief, walked on a quiet nighttime street in Damascus. Not far away, a team of CIA spotters was tracking his movements. As Mughniyeh approached a parked SUV, a bomb planted in a spare tire on the back of the vehicle exploded, killing him instantly. The device was triggered remotely from Tel Aviv by agents with Mossad, the Israeli foreign intelligence service, who were in communication with the operatives on the ground in Damascus. "The way it was set up, the U.S. could object and call it off," said a former U.S. intelligence official. The U.S. helped build the bomb, the former official said. Mughniyeh had been implicated in Hizbullah's terrorist attack against the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in 1983 that killed 63 people, including eight CIA officers. Former agency officials said Mughniyeh was involved in the 1984 kidnapping and torture of the CIA's station chief in Lebanon, William F. Buckley. Mughniyeh was indicted in U.S. federal court in the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847 shortly after it took off from Athens and the slaying of U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem, a passenger on the plane. He was also suspected of involvement in the planning of the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. servicemen. Former U.S. officials asserted that Mughniyeh was directly connected to the arming and training of Shiite militias in Iraq that were targeting U.S. forces. "They were carrying out suicide bombings and IED attacks," said one official. The authority to kill Mughniyeh required a presidential finding by President George W. Bush. A former U.S. official said the Bush administration relied on a theory of national self-defense to kill Mughniyeh, claiming he was a lawful target because he was actively plotting against the U.S. or its forces in Iraq, making him a continued and imminent threat who could not be captured. For the Israelis, among numerous attacks, Mughniyeh was involved in the 1992 suicide bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires that killed four Israeli civilians and 25 Argentinians, and the 1994 attack on a Jewish community center in the city that killed 85 people. During the operation, the CIA and Mossad had a chance to kill Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran's Quds Force, as he and Mughniyeh walked together. "At one point, the two men were standing there, same place, same street. All they had to do was push the button," said one former official. But the operatives didn't have the legal authority to kill Soleimani, the officials said. There had been no presidential finding to do so.

2015-02-02 00:00:00

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