Wednesday, February 13, 2008
On this day:

Arch-terrorist with ties to Iran killed in Syrian capital

Somebody took out one of the big guys.

From the New York Times:
BEIRUT, Lebanon — A top Hezbollah commander long sought by the United States for his role in terrorist attacks that killed hundreds of Americans in the 1980s, died Tuesday night in Damascus, Syria, when a bomb detonated under the vehicle he was in, Syrian officials said.

No one claimed responsibility for killing the commander, Imad Mugniyah, who had been in hiding for many years and was one of the most wanted and elusive terrorists in the world. ...

Widely believed to have undergone plastic surgery to avoid detection, Mr. Mugniyah had not been seen in public for years and was thought to have moved between Iran, Syria and Lebanon at various times. Before 2001, he had been involved in more terrorist attacks against Americans than any other person, and at one point he had a $25 million American bounty on his head. ...

Mr. Mugniyah, who was also known as Hajj Rudwan, was one of the world’s most wanted men. American prosecutors charged him in the hijacking of the T.W.A. jetliner in 1985, during which a United States Navy diver, Robert D. Stethem, was shot dead and dumped onto the tarmac of Beirut’s airport.

Mr. Mugniyah was also accused of arranging shipments of arms from Iran to Palestinian groups. American officials say Mr. Mugniyah was behind the 1983 bombing of the Marine compound in Beirut, in which 241 service members were killed. A car bomb at the American Embassy there in the same year killed 63 people, including 17 Americans.

The United States also asserts that he was behind the torture and killing of William Buckley, the C.I.A. station chief in Beirut, in 1984; the kidnapping and killing of Lt. Col. William R. Higgins of the Marines, who was on peacekeeping duty in Lebanon in 1988; and in his capacity as leader of the Islamic Jihad Organization, the seizure of a number of Western hostages in Beirut during the 1980s. ...

Israel accused him of helping to plan the 1992 bombing of its embassy in Buenos Aires, in which 29 people were killed, and the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in the city, in which 85 people died.
There's more from the New York Times here. Note who this guy's principal enablers were:
He is thought to have moved frequently between Beirut, Lebanon, Damascus and Tehran. His expertise and his protection by the leaders of Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Revolutionary Guards Corps in Iran made him hard to capture or to kill, according to intelligence experts. He was considered an agent of a wing of the Revolutionary Guards, which the United States says has sponsored terrorist attacks around the world since the Iranian revolution. ...

The Central Intelligence Agency long considered Mr. Mugniyah’s organization more dangerous than Al Qaeda, largely because his group was backed by Iran, even as Al Qaeda began to attack American targets in the late 1990s. ...

He became an early leader in the formation of the Islamic Jihad Organization, the terrorist wing of Hezbollah, and was assigned to anti-American operations.

Then there's this:
Mr. Mugniyah, a Shiite allied with Iran, and Mr. bin Laden, a Sunni from Saudi Arabia, would not seem to have been natural allies, yet there is evidence of contacts between them. They held at least one meeting in the 1990s, possibly to discuss a terrorist relationship, according to statements made in federal court by a former close aide to Mr. bin Laden.
For more on the Hezbollah-Al Qaeda relationship and Iran's friendship with both organizations, see this report by the Council on Foreign Relations.

So, who did it? The American Enterprise Institute's Michael Ledeen speculates here, but right now it's anyone's guess. As one Israeli official said, "Whoever did should be congratulated."