'Mughniyeh co-founded Hizbullah'

Slain arch-terrorist Imad Mughniyeh believed to have been behind abduction of Regev and Goldwasser.

Imad Mughniyeh 224 88 (photo credit: FBI Website)
Imad Mughniyeh 224 88
(photo credit: FBI Website)
For 25 years, Hizbullah operations chief Imad Mughniyeh was one of the world's most wanted terrorists, involved in endless attacks against Israel and the United States, including the abduction of two IDF reservists in 2006 and the bombing of US embassies in Africa. Less known than Osama bin Laden but considered a greater outlaw, Mughniyeh was implicated in the 1983 bombing of the US Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut that killed more than 300, as well as the 1994 bombing of the Israelite Mutual Association building in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people, and the 1992 attack on the Israeli Embassy in the same city, in which 29 died. He apparently had strong ties with al-Qaida, and according to the testimony of Ali Muhammad - a senior al-Qaida operative who was arrested for involvement in the attacks on American embassies in Africa - Mughniyeh met with bin Laden in Sudan in 1993. Hizbullah, Muhammad said, provided explosives training for al-Qaida fighters. This relationship - and the fact that Mughniyeh was Hizbullah's liaison to al-Qaida - has led Western intelligence agencies to raise the possibility that he was also involved in the September 11 attacks. Born in Tyre, Lebanon, in 1962, Mughniyeh did not attract attention until 1976, when he joined the PLO's Force 17 as a sniper targeting Christians on the Green Line dividing West and East Beirut. Fatah officials told The Jerusalem Post that he had been very close to Yasser Arafat when the PLO was based in Beirut. "His nickname was tha'lab [the fox], and today he's considered the second most important figure in Hizbullah after Secretary-General Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. We're very proud to have had a Palestinian holding such a high position in Hizbullah," said a Fatah official who said he had known Mughniyeh well during the '70s and '80s. When the IDF forced the PLO to leave Lebanon in 1982, Arafat entrusted Mughniyeh with transferring the organization's weapons to Lebanese armed groups allied with the Palestinians. Mughniyeh, who refused to leave Beirut with the PLO leadership, joined the the Shi'ite Amal militia headed by Nabih Berri. He and Nasrallah later left the movement to form Hizbullah. The first terrorist attacks in which he was implicated were the 1983 bombings of the US Embassy and barracks housing US Marines and French paratroopers, who were part of the Multinational Force in Lebanon. Around 350 people were killed. In 1985, Mughniyeh was believed to have been one of the terrorists who hijacked a TWA flight on its way from Athens to Rome. The plane was forced to land in Beirut and afterwards flew to Algeria before returning to Beirut. He was later indicted in the US for the murder of one of the hostages on board, a US Navy diver. On October 10, 2001, Mughniyeh appeared on the FBI's first "Top 22 Most Wanted Terrorists" list. A reward of $5 million was offered for information leading to his capture. He has also been linked to the Karine A weapons ship that Arafat tried to use to smuggle arms into the Gaza Strip in 2001, as well as the kidnapping of three IDF soldiers in October 2000 by Hizbullah and the abduction of reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser in the summer of 2006. Mughniyeh was Hizbullah's chief liaison with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and was believed to have spent most of his time in Teheran under tight Iranian security. Outside of Iran, he reportedly never slept in the same place twice and constantly looked over his shoulder. In January 2006, Mughniyeh is believed to have traveled with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Damascus for a meeting with Nasrallah, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and Islamic Jihad chief Ramadan Salah. "He knew that he was on the FBI's list for many years, and he has lived many years according to this understanding - and this was strengthened following the Second Lebanon War," said Col. (res.) Dr. Eitan Azani, deputy executive director of the Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the IDC Herzliya and a former head of the Lebanese Desk at IDF Military Intelligence. In contrast to bin Laden, Azani said, Mughniyeh "did not have a political role, but was strictly involved in operations, like the chief of General Staff."