A new Washington Post report reveals the assassination of one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists was a result of cooperation between Israel and the US.
The assassination of Hezbollah leader Imad Mughniyeh seven years ago was a joint Mossad-CIA operation, The Washington Post reports.
On February 12, 2008, Imad Mughniyeh, Hezbollah’s international operations chief, was killed by a car bomb in Damascus.
Mughniyeh’s assassination was widely attributed to Israel in the media, and the US’s involvement was confirmed over the weekend to the Washington Post by five former US intelligence officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The CIA went through a “rigorous and tedious” process to obtain the legal authority from then-President George W. Bush to kill the Hezbollah leader. “The decision was [that] we had to have absolute confirmation that it was self-defense,” one former CIA official said.
The CIA had managed to prove that Mughniyeh “was a continuing threat to Americans” through his connection to the arming and training of Shi’ite militias in Iraq, who were targeting and killing American forces.
The US and Israeli intelligence organizations reportedly worked together for months, monitoring Mughniyeh in Damascus in order to determine where the bomb should be planted.
The bomb used to kill Mughniyeh was developed in the US. It was planted in a tire on the rear of Mughniyeh’s vehicle. “We probably blew up 25 bombs to make sure we got it right,” an official told the Post.
A team of CIA spotters in Damascus were tracking his movements and set up the bomb, and Mossad agents in Tel Aviv remotely triggered the bomb, the report revealed.
“The way it was set up, the US could object and call it off, but it could not execute,” the official told the newspaper.
Another said that facial-recognition technology was used to confirm Mughniyeh’s identity before the bomb was set off, adding that the Israelis “wanted to pull the trigger as payback.”
“It was revenge. The Americans didn’t care as long as Mughniyeh was dead,” and there was little fear of consequences to the Americans because Hezbollah would most probably blame the Israelis, he said.
Stopping Legacy of Terror
With the exception of the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden, the mission marked one of the most high-risk covert actions by the US in recent years, the Post declares.
Mughniyeh was linked to several terror attacks against Americans, including the 1983 bombing of the US embassy in Beirut, which killed 63 people, and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 US servicemen.
“Mughniyeh and his group were responsible for the deaths of many Americans,” said James Bernazzani, who was chief of the FBI’s Hezbollah unit in the late 1990s and, later, deputy director for law enforcement at the CIA’s counter-terrorism center.
Mughniyeh was also connected to the 1992 suicide bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires that killed 29 people and the 1994 attack on the Jewish community center in the Argentinean capital, which claimed 85 lives.
Both the US and Israel have denied the report.
“We have nothing to add at this time,” said Mark Regev, chief spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Secretary of State John Kerry said he had no information on the report.
Mughniyeh’s son, Jihad, was killed in January, together with other Hezbollah terrorists and an Iranian general, in an air strike reportedly carried out by Israel’s Air Force (IAF) in the Quneitra area in Syria. He was carrying on his father’s legacy of plotting and executing terror attacks against Israel.
To read the full Washington Post report click HERE.