A report from the Washington Post on Friday confirmed that the CIA and Israel’s spy agency Mossad were behind an elaborate plot to kill Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh in a 2008 car bomb attack in Syria.
Citing former intelligence officials, the newspaper reported that US and Israeli spy agencies worked together to target Mughniyeh on February 12, 2008 as he left a restaurant in the Syrian capital Damascus.
He was killed instantly by a car bomb planted in a spare tire on the back of a parked car, which exploded shrapnel in a tight radius, the Post said.
On January 19, Jihad, Mughniyeh’s 24-year-old son, was also killed by Israeli forces in Syria, along with five Hezbollah members and and an Iranian general in a helicopter airstrike near the city of Quneitra.
The bomb that killed Mughniyeh, built by the United States and tested in the state of North Carolina, was triggered remotely by Mossad agents in Tel Aviv who were in communication with the CIA operatives on the ground in Damascus.
“The way it was set up, the US could object and call it off, but it could not execute,” a former US intelligence official told the newspaper.
The CIA declined to comment to the Post about the report.
According the newspaper, the authority to kill required a presidential finding by George W. Bush. Several senior officials, including the attorney general, the director of national intelligence and the national security advisor, would have had to sign off on the order, it added.
The newspaper said that during the Iraq war, the Bush administration had approved a list of operations aimed at Hezbollah, and according to one official, this included approval to target Mughniyeh.
“There was an open license to find, fix and finish Mughniyeh and anybody affiliated with him,” a former US official who served in Baghdad told the Post.
According to the newspaper, American intelligence officials had been discussing possible ways to target the Hezbollah commander for years, and senior US Joint Special Operations Command agents held a secret meeting on the issue with the head of Israel’s military intelligence service in 2002.
“When we said we would be willing to explore opportunities to target him, they practically fell out of their chairs,” a former US official told the Post.
Though it is not clear when the agencies realized Mughniyeh was living in Damascus, a former official told the newspaper that Israel had approached the CIA about a joint operation to kill him in Syria’s capital.
The agencies collected “pattern of life” information about him and used facial recognition technology to establish his identity after he walked out of a restaurant the night he was killed.
In 2013, an Al-Akhbar investigation into the 2008 assassination revealed that Mossad, under the leadership of Meir Dagan at the time, was responsible for the operation, which took around six weeks to implement, from A to Z.
Mossad and CIA have repeatedly planned and carried out assassinations on Hezbollah’s senior commanders and members in Lebanon and Syria.
In 2013, Hezbollah commander Hassan al-Laqqis was assassinated in the suburbs of Beirut, an attack that the resistance group said was orchestrated by Israeli intelligence.
On Friday, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah spoke about the latest attack on Hezbollah members in Quneitra, stressing that Israel had “planned, calculated and took a premeditated decision to assassinate” Hezbollah fighters.
Source: Al-Akhbar English