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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Imad Mugniyah likely behind the capture of Israeli soldiers

By Bill Roggio

Hezbollah has conducted a highly successful raid into Israeli territory, attacking a Israeli Defense Force outpost along the Israel-Lebanese border, killing three soldiers and capturing two after they were wounded. Four Israeli soldiers were killed when their tank ran over a land mine in Lebanon during follow-up operations to free the captured soldiers. An additional soldier was killed when attempting to recover the bodies of the four tankers.

Hezbollah carefully planned and selected the personnel for this operation, and executed with precision. The attack began with an artillery barrage along the Israeli frontier. An IDF outpost, with well trained Israeli troops, was overrun, and Hezbollah had the time to take the two wounded Israeli soldiers hostage. The land mine used to destroy the tank during the Israeli follow-up raid into Lebanon was deliberately set to catch the IDF while pressing forward, and large enough to destroy a well armored main battle tank. The Israeli search and rescue combat team took heavy fire once they crossed the border. Hezbollah laid a trap for the IDF.

The sophistication of this attack indicates Imad Fayez Mugniyah, Hezbollah's chief of military operations was directly involved. Mugniyah has a long history of successful military and terrorist operations across the globe. Mugniyah has a history of conducting similar snatch and grab operations against the Israelis. He was responsible for capturing three Israeli soldiers in Lebanon, and the abduction of an Israeli colonel in Kuwait in 2000.

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 U.S. embassy in Beirut, killing 63; the October 1983 simultaneous truck bombings on the U.S. Marine and French paratrooper barracks in Beirut, killing 241 Marines and 58 French soldiers; the hijacking of TWA 847; the kidnappings and murders of U.S. 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 an Israeli 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 U.S. servicemen.

Mugniyah has extensive links with the Iranian intelligence services, and has been directly linked to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, and recently deceased al-Qaeda in Iraq commander Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Mugniyah is on FBI's list of 22 most wanted terrorists, with a $5 million dollar reward for information leading to his capture. U.S. Special Forces aborted a raid to capture Mugniyah in the Persian Gulf in 1996. He was believed to have visited Syria in January of 2006, attending a meeting with Iranian President Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Assad.

ap_lebanon_featuredimage.jpgThe Hezbollah raid and subsequent capture of two Israeli soldiers has placed Israel in a difficult situation. After Hamas' operation in Gaza, which also included the capture of an Israeli soldier, and the subsequent Israeli incursion into Gaza in attempt to free him, Israel now has fight on a second front. An Israeli reserve division is being mobilized to deploy to the Lebanese frontier. After today's attack, Israel conducted multiple strikes by air and sea, bombarding Hezbollah positions and bridges leading away from the attack site to prevent easy movement of the Hezbollah strike team. The IDF also struck at Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command positions just ten miles south of Beirut.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert referred to Hezbollah's strike was an "act of war" by Lebanon. "The Lebanese government, of which Hezbollah is a part, is trying to shake regional stability. We are already responding with great strength," said Olmert. The U.S. has directly implicated Iran and Syria (and by default, Mugniyah, their proxy). There are several motivations for Hezbollah's attack: Iran wishes to shift focus from their nuclear program to Israel; Syria Syria seeks an excuse to re-occupy Lebanon; Lebanon has been under pressure to disarm Hezbollah; Hezbollah wishes to gain prestige but striking at their hated enemy while providing assistance to Hamas; the destabilization of the nascent Lebanese democracy would be a blow to the U.S. democracy promotion program.


US intelligence to step up efforts against Mughniyeh

With Iran 's nuclear program in focus, fears arise over Tehran 's willingness to deploy its global network of proxies in retaliation over the United States efforts to halt its nuclear weapons program. United Press International reported that Iran has preemptively started funding 8 radical Islamic groups across the Middle East and installing arguably the most feared terrorist alive, Imad Mughniyeh, in command.

Iran's recent threats to inflict “harm and pain” on US interests globally has been seen as a direct warning to Washington that Iran would use whatever means necessary to accomplish their objectives. While many in the media have interpreted his comments as Tehran's will to use oil as an economic weapon, most in the intelligence community fear that Iran will deploy its highly effective clandestine operatives(ie: Hizbullah) to launch terrorist acts against US and its allies.

With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that the Central Intelligence Agency has recently stepped up its efforts to apprehend or kill Iran 's chief terrorist Imad Mughniyeh.

Mughniyeh, as described by former CIA agent Robert Baer, who hunted him in the Middle East in the 1980s: "He is the most dangerous terrorist we have ever faced. Mughniyeh is probably the most intelligent, most capable operative we have ever run across, including the KGB or anybody else. He enters by one door, exits by another; changes his cars daily; never makes appointments by telephone, he is never predictable... He is the master terrorist, the grail, we have been after since 1983."

A mastermind in terrorism, Mughniyeh was rumored to have fled Lebanon and land in Iran , where he was put in charge of Lebanon 's Hizbullah movement's overseas operations.

Recent requests for his extradition to the US were obviously rejected by Lebanon 's pro-Syrian/Iranian government officials. Wanted for the 1985 hijacking of a TWA jetliner and the murder of a US Navy diver, Mughniyeh has been one step ahead of US agents reportedly having two plastic surgeries and only 3 pictures of him known to exist.

Working with Iran 's intelligence services, Mughniyeh has reportedly escorted Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Syria and even rumored to be seen on national television there. The official visit entailed meetings with regional terrorist group leaders and the promise of funding that has reportedly been honored. This cements the theories that Iran will undoubtedly use violence against the US if its nuclear facilities are attacked, with the alliance it has bought with Mughniyeh at the helm.

While Mughniyeh is a serious concern, more emphasis must also be directed to Iran 's Ministry of Intelligence and Security operatives based throughout the world.


Imad Fayez Mugniyah (born December 7 , 1962 ) is a senior member of the Lebanese group Hezbollah . He is alternatively described as the head of its security section, a senior intelligence official and as a founder of the organization. He's widely believed to be heading the international branch of the Hezbollah. This discrepancy can be traced to the limited information known about him. He uses the name Hajj as an alias. Mugniyah is also included in the EU list of wanted terrorists [1] .

Imad Mugniyah

Mugniyah has been implicated in many of the noted terrorist attacks of the 1980s and 1990s, primarily American and Israeli targets. These include the April 18 , 1983 bombing of the United States embassy in Beirut , which killed 63 people including 17 Americans. He was later blamed for the October 23 , 1983 simultaneous truck bombings against the French paratroopers and US Marine barracks (see: Marine Barracks Bombing ). The attacks killed 58 French soldiers and 241 Marines. Almost a year later on September 20 , 1984 , he attacked the US embassy annex building. The United States indicted him for the July 14 , 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847 , which resulted in the death of U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem . He was also linked to the numerous kidnappings of Westerners in Beirut through the 1980s, most notably that of Terry Anderson . Some these individuals were later killed such as U.S. Army Col William Francis Buckley . The remainder were release at various times until the last one, Terry Anderson was released in 1991 .

Mugniyah has been formally charged by Argentina with participating in the March 17 , 1992 bombings of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires Argentina , which killed 29 and the AMIA cultural building in July 1994 , killing 86 people. He has been accused of orchestrating the 2000 abductions of three Israeli soldiers in the southern part of Lebanon and abduction of Israeli Colonel Elchanan Tenenbaum .


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Relationships to al-Qaeda and other groups

Mugniyah has been accused of being an ally of the terrorist organization al-Qaeda . According to the testimony of Ali Mohamed , he arranged security for a meeting between Mugniyah and al-Qaeda operatives in 1993. This connection has lead some to believe he was also behind the 1996 attack on the Khobar Towers complex, which resulted in the deaths of 19 American service members, 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in East Africa and the USS Cole bombing in 2000.

Many foreign policy experts including Michael Ledeen have speculated that Mughniyah has had a strong working relationship with Al Qaeda and Abu Musab Al Zarqawi , especially in recent years with the invasion of Iraq. However, this notion has been largely discredited in large part to Zarqawi's intense hatred towards Shia Islam which Mughniyah belongs to. Zarqawi has denounced Shiites in numerous audiotapes and web postings and has conducted a large number of brutal suicide attacks on Shiite interests within Iraq.

He has also been linked to Palestinian actions, such as the Karine-A incident in 2001, where the Palestinian Authority was accused of importing fifty tons of weapons. He was previously a member of Force 17 , an armed branch of the Fatah movement charged with providing security for Yasser Arafat and other prominent PLO officials.

Actions of law enforcement

Various law enforcement agencies have attempted to capture Mugniyah. The United States tried to secure his capture in France in 1986, but were thwarted by French refusal to detain him.

The United States tried to detain him several times afterwards. The first being a 1995 attempt to detain him as the plane he was traveling on was suppose to stop in Saudi Arabia . However Saudi officials refused to allow the plane to land and he was not captured. The next year US military personnel planned to seize him off a ship in Doha Qatar, but the operation was called off.

On Oct. 10, 2001 Mugniyah appeared on the initial list of the FBI's top 22 Most Wanted Terrorists , which was released to the public by President Bush. A reward of $25 million dollars was offered for information leading to his arrest was offered.

The Israeli government has also made several alleged attempts to assassinate Mugniyah. His brother Fuad Mugniyah was killed in 1994 by a Lebanese working for Israel 1 . It should be noted the Israeli government as a matter of policy rarely confirms its involvement in assassination attempts.

In 1999, the Argentinean government issued an arrest warrant for Mugniyah for his involvement in the 1994 AIMA culture center bombing.


1. N. Blanford , ‘Double agent' played deadly game , [www.dailystar.com.lb The Daily Star]

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