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Imad Mugniyah assassinated in Damascus

Imad Fayez Mugniyah, or Moughnieh, or Mughnieh, has a different biography for every possible spelling of his name. Arguably the most wanted terrorist in the world after Osama Bin Laden, little is known for sure about him except that yesterday, at 11:00 p.m. Syria time on February 12, 2008, he was killed in a car bomb in Kfar Suseh neighborhood in Damascus.

The late-night explosion blew out windows in nearby buildings, damaged several cars and reportedly killed a passerby. The bombing occurred near an Iranian school and a Syrian intelligence office, according to Iranian PressTV. Who the target was only became clear the next morning, however, as Hezbollah officials identified the body and immediately named Israel as his killer.

Aftershocks

One immediate question for many Lebanese is, what will this mean for the February 14 demonstration in Martyr’s Square? Tensions are already high in the capital, and with Mugniyah’s funeral now planned in Dahiyeh for the same day, security forces will be stretched thin to maintain control.

Free Patriotic Movement spokesman Gibran Bassil, asked about the possibility of clashes, said, “We hope not. They are two separate events; each crowd should respect the other crowd's feelings. There should be security forces able to secure the situation.”

The two events are separated by some distance, but the recent spate of armed clashes in and around Beirut and the proximity of the opposition protesters still encamped around Beirut’s downtown district raise the specter of possible problems on Thursday.

Speaking to NOW Lebanon about the Martyrs’ Square demonstration, Senior Kataeb official Selim Sayegh said, “We want to have all Lebanon going into and commemorating the event - not the martyrdom as such, because we don't want to have a tradition to celebrate martyrdom - but to celebrate the meaning, the political meaning and consequences that were created by February 14.”

He added, “We know that most of the Christians that have voted in one direction, because of a special moment in the past, many of the Christians are still embedded with the very idea of March 14, and we want these to be awakened again.”

Bassil, however, confirmed that the FPM would not be in attendance at the Martyrs’ Square gathering, saying, “We are not boycotting, but we are not participating. Now we have different politics, we participate in commemorating the event.” However, Bassil confirmed that the party is not planning a separate gathering of its own.

In the mid-term, Mugniyah’s assassination will likely roil the regional waters even more. Hezbollah immediately accused Israel of the bombing, and some in Lebanon have speculated that Syria could have been behind it. Sayegh said, “It happened on Syrian territory. Perhaps it is the Syrians who have killed him; perhaps they wanted to finish the guy up.”

If it was not the Syrians themselves who killed Mugniyah, the most likely culprits would be the Western intelligence agencies and Israeli Mossad that he has eluded for almost 30 years. Damascus is not Lebanon; Syria is much more tightly controlled, and Syrian security and intelligence services are pervasive. Such an operation would require highly sophisticated planning and resources to carry out.

Israel has denied any involvement in the assassination, but if it were to come out that Jerusalem was behind the attack, it could lead to renewed fighting between Hezbollah and their southern neighbors. Hezbollah is at its strongest politically when it is firmly cast in the role of the Islamic bulwark against a rapacious Zionist foe, and they may see another conflict as beneficial to their bargaining position in the current Lebanese crisis. It could also boomerang against them, however, if they are seen to be starting an unnecessary war over a man they disclaim an official relationship with.

Speaking to NOW Lebanon, Dr. Judith Palmer Harik, author of Hezbollah: The Changing Face of Terrorism said, “If they've been careful to keep some distance between themselves as an organization and this man, then they wouldn't do more than mourn him as a kind of Arab or Islamic martyr. We'll see.”

Hezbollah political bureau member Ghaleb Abu Zeinab would not speculate on the nature or timing of Hezbollah’s response, though it was clear there would be one. He told NOW Lebanon, “We are now in a mourning period; tomorrow we will bury him. Later, we will say more.”

Hints and allegations

Mugniyah has been described as a freelance Iranian agent, and/or an important operational link between Iran and Hezbollah. He was  accused in late October of 2007 of training Shia in the Bekka Valley for uprisings in the Gulf as part of an Iranian attack against the US and its allies. While his recent whereabouts were unknown, Mugniyah was said to primarily reside in Iran with his family, and he reportedly made trips to Damascus with Iranian leaders.

Harik, said, “For years, ever since the surfacing of his name, Hezbollah have denied that he was a member of the organization.” Hezbollah is now, however, claiming Mugniyah as a “leader of the Islamic Resistance” on Al-Manar television, and accusing Israel of his assassination. They have avoided stating that he is or was a formal member of Hezbollah itself, however. Israel, after initially refusing to comment on the bombing, has denied involvement.

Abu Zeinab said, “Of course he is related; we know him very well. We are currently accepting condolences.” Abu Zeinab would not comment on the nature of the recent relationship, however.

Whatever Mugniyah’s real role in the region or in Lebanon, his death will definitely have serious repercussions. The country is now braced for two major public and highly politicized rallies in Beirut tomorrow. Foreign embassies and UN offices have issued warnings to their citizens and employees to restrict movement and stay alert for any breakdown in order. The next few days will decide if Imad Mugniyah’s legacy is to be as violent as was his life.

  • Rabieh

    Ok his wife denies? I don't know where you get your info from, how about Iranian army radio said that assassinated Hezbollah military commander Imad Mugniyah and the party’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, had a dispute because Mugniyah wanted to take over control of the party’s General Secretariat.

    March 4, 2008

  • Sami

    زوجة مغنية تنفي ما نسب اليها نفت زوجة الشهيد القيادي في «حزب الله» الحاج عماد مغنية السيدة سعدى بدر الدين ان تكون قد وجهت اتهامها لأي دولة عربية في قضية اغتيال زوجها، وتعتبر أن كل ما طرح في وسائل الإعلام حول هذه المسألة هو مجرد أكاذيب تهدف إلى تضليل التحقيق والتغطية على القاتل الحقيقي وهو العدو الصهيوني.

    March 3, 2008

  • badi Ali

    Imad Mughniyah: Who Killed him and why? by Badi Ali, Greensboro, North Carolina On February 12, 2008 Imad Mughniyah was killed in a bomb explosion in a suburb of Damascus known for its high security level. He was reportedly top intelligence officer of Hizbullah and was blamed by the U.S. and Israel for a whole series of attacks on their interests. The U.S. placed a bounty of $25 million on his head. In spite of the allegations, no evidence was ever produced against him. He was simply on the wrong side as far as Israel and the U.S. were concerned. [At one time he worked for Yasir Arafat's famous Special Security force #17.] Imad Mughniyah's assassination has been condemned by Hizbullah as the act of Israel. Shaikh Nasrallah, the Hizbullah leader, has promised retaliation against Israel. The key question facing analysts of of the Middle East is about the significance of the location of the killing in a high security area of Damascus, Syria. The following points should be not

    February 29, 2008

  • Sami

    General La7ed is now running a restaurant in Israel, his masters the Israelis call him General Hommos.This is an honorable end to a traitor.I wonder what will Junblat end up working at.I am here Kanaani, where are you?

    February 28, 2008

  • Sami

    Kanaani, I am here.This man helped preserve your Lebanese dignity by defeating Israel .The real monster is the one who sides with the enemy against his partners in watan.

    February 27, 2008

  • Battal Agha

    Bravo Essam, yours is the best configuration I have read. Makes perfect sense.

    February 25, 2008

  • Rabieh

    “Syrian traitors facilitated the killing of my husband,” Badr al-Din told an online Iranian newswire. Any comments ya hizeb?

    February 25, 2008

  • Sami

    Mr. Essam, you forgot to mention one more name that can not talk either, Hariri the father.Thank you Syria.Thank you Iran.

    February 24, 2008

  • Dahia

    A DNA is required, hizeb mind game might work on the hizeb people because they are getting paid to believe anything hassan says. Prove that haida Imad was assasinated, he could have been done all this time, or maybe since the summer war. Look what happened to Naher Al Bared leader- absi? Where is he now, after he was pronounced dead!!

    February 24, 2008

  • Sami

    Essam, if you talk like an Israeli, write like one, think like one, then you are in the Israeli camp and will have to be treated as a traitor.We hang traitors(Saddam).Remember La7ad, Basheer, Haddad and his men.Trust me , you cant live amongst us as a drop in the Arabic/Muslim ocean and cooperate with Israel.It is impossible.Think on this fact:Israel has the support of the world and still cant have peace, who supports you and will you have peace or immigrate?

    February 14, 2008

  • essam

    A Kadmous ,cont my msg,the killing is a massage to the 'friends''of the Syrians,some have been involved in the killing, that, if they even consider breaking the link with them and spell the beans about the assassination then he may end up getting it, this may include Kanso,Qandil,Abdulraheeem Mourad,S Franjeih and even E Lahoud...mark my word, once dead,they can't talk !!

    February 14, 2008

  • adonis kadmous kenaani

    Essam, you are 100% correct. Where is our Hizb friend Sami? A monster is dead, good riddance.

    February 13, 2008

  • Rabieh

    Mr. Gibran Bassil, “We are not boycotting, but we are not participating" F.Y.I.....The true Lebanese will be there, not (...) the oppositions. This is not a riot; it is a participation / remembrance for the Feb 14th savage assassination by the Syrian regime, so I do not see why aoun and the opposition are not planning to be there? is it because syria will not allow it?

    February 13, 2008

  • Rabieh

    Lebinlon, you better believe it my friend, 5 million the american had on this dude

    February 13, 2008

  • Dahia

    That's a shame,hHe only killed more than 260 Americans in Lebanon in the 1980s when he was then Hizbullah's security chief.

    February 13, 2008

  • Batroun

    Bassil “We are not boycotting, but we are not participating.? what does that mean? just admit that you have no Green light from your Boss hass to participate.

    February 13, 2008

  • Rabieh

    Bassil, however, "confirmed that the FPM would not be in attendance at the Martyrs’ Square gathering, saying, “We are not boycotting, but we are not participating". Of course, you are not participating; you chose to be against the Lebanese and line up with the syrian regime.

    February 13, 2008

  • LEBINLON

    I guess the Americans never give up/never forget. It was never cheap to kill a CIA chieh of station (William Buckley) and the pinpoint targeting of Mughnieh 20 years on is proof enough. Those barking "death to amrica" would be wise to remember it...especially if they want a visa one day, even 20 years from now

    February 13, 2008

  • essam

    4 BIRDS, YES 4 BIRDS WITH 1 SYRIAN INTELEGANCE STONE.. Bird 1 :Timing to clash with 14th feb gathering on the 14th Feb, so more pressure on the Lebanese Sec.Services & good chance for the Syrian Intelligence Services to create clashes. 2nd timing, getting rid of the possible 'weak link' between Hizbollah & Syrian Intelligence Services with regards to the International Court Investigation. 2nd Bird:pressure on Hizbollah to confirm that ,he was a active & high member of Hizbollah and as they have confirmed he was,therfore could now be labeled a Terrorist Group, and may end up accused by the Syrian to be the (one of) the guys behind Harriri's assassination...secrets gone with him as Ghazi Kanan !!! 3rd bird:a pressure on Hizbollah to react !!, against Israel, or even the UN force in the South ,the Qatari are pulling out, what a timing !!!! 4th Bird:A message to ALL other men involved in the Hariri's assassination to know that NO ONE is imune from Syrian Intelleg services long

    February 13, 2008