JERUSALEM, Feb. 13, 2008 — -- Although he managed an impeccably low profile, Imad Mughniyeh was an extremely important figure in the underground world of terrorism. His death is a significant achievement for the intelligence organization that caused it.
Beginning as a Lebanese Shiite militant leading attacks against U.S. targets in his native Lebanon, he transformed himself in recent years into a significant player at the political and strategic level.
His resume is filled with some of the most notorious attacks against U.S. and Israeli targets in the last three decades. He morphed from a gunslinger for Yasser Arafat's elite Force 17 in the 1970s into an ideological convert for Hezbollah.
During the early 1980s he masterminded the attacks against the U.S. Embassy and the barracks in Beirut, the hijacking of TWA 847 where he was famously photographed hanging out of the cockpit window, bomb attacks against Israeli diplomatic targets in South America and some think he coordinated the dispatching of the truck bomb that brought down the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia.
In his most recent incarnation he wore a suit and was welcomed in the highest corridors of power in both Damascus, Syria, and Tehran, Iran. He was the link man between Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards for the rearming of Hezbollah and was even rumored to have attended a 2006 meeting between Syrian President Bashar Assad and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Damascus.
In the early 1990s he visited Sudan and is thought to have met Osama bin Laden. Some intelligence agencies believe he was behind the escape of leading al Qaeda figures to Iran in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies have been pursuing him for years. It is alleged he had plastic surgery to change his appearance, and in 1996 there was confusion about an aborted U.S. special forces operation to arrest him on a ship in the Persian Gulf. All of which has only added to his reputation for being a survivor, and may explain his nickname, "the Fox."
This morning, Hezbollah hailed him a glorious martyr and accused Israel of killing him. Israel in response quickly denied involvement saying, "Israel rejects the attempt by terror groups to attribute to it any involvement in this incident."
There will be an enormous Hezbollah funeral for Mughniyeh in the suburbs of Beirut Thursday.
It is a very significant hit, right in the heart of the Syrian capital. Others will be reviewing their personal security arrangements this morning. Hezbollah will survive, but he was a very important figure.