Death of a master terrorist: How the ‘Iranian Jackal’ was killed
On the fifth anniversary of the assassination of Imad Mughniyah, a.k.a. “The Iranian Jackal,” much new information about the hunt for the terrorist most wanted by Mossad and the FBI has emerged. It’s a story of high-tech surveillance and old-fashioned espionage, and it’s just starting to be truly told now.
Imad Mughniyah was 20 years old when he made his debut on the international terrorist scene in 1983, with a series of spectacular and deadly bombings aimed at Western forces in Lebanon. The 1983 Beirut suicide bombings included those on April 18 at the U.S. Embassy (63 killed); on Oct. 23 at the U.S. Marine barracks (241 killed); and on Oct. 23 at the French paratrooper barracks (58 killed). A litany of bombings, hijackings, kidnappings and assassinations followed, with an ever-increasing body count. A list of the attacks he is believed to have been involved in, directly or in a leadership capacity, reads like an index of late-20th-century terrorism: Car bombings of the Israeli embassy and the Jewish cultural center in Argentina (124 killed) in the early 1990s; the World Trade Center bombing of 1993 (6 killed); the Khobar Towers suicide bombing in Saudi Arabia in 1996 (19 killed); the U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 (223 killed); the 2000 suicide attack on the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen (17 killed).
And perhaps even the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. The 9/11 Commission Report references “a senior Hezbollah operative” shepherding the future hijackers in and out of Iran. Some terrorism experts believe this was almost certainly Mughniyah. Indeed, according to Peter Lance’s book Triple Cross, Osama bin Laden spoke admiringly of Mughniyah’s lethal handiwork and in 1993 met with him in Khartoum, Sudan, to form a working alliance. That historic meeting, according to Lance, was brokered by Ali Mohamed, bin Laden’s master spy and double agent inside the FBI. Kenneth R. Timmerman, in Countdown to Crisis, quotes Major General Amos Malka, a senior Israeli military intelligence official, saying that before Sept. 11, the Israelis had picked up on numerous signs that bin Laden and Mughniyah were planning new operations against Israel and the U.S. “within the next few weeks.”
(Photo: Lyle G. Becker / Getty Images)