WASHINGTON (JTA) – The CIA and the Mossad collaborated in the 2008 assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, the top Hezbollah operations officer blamed for an array of terrorist attacks, according to two in-depth reports.
The Washington Post and Newsweek in the reports published on the weekend for the first time revealed the extent of the co-operation ahead of the Feb. 12, 2008 killing in Damascus. The co-operation included a long period of both agencies tracking Mughniyeh in the Syrian capital, where he kept a secret residence.
The CIA built the explosive device, hidden in the spare tire of an SUV, and the Mossad detonated it long distance from Israel as he walked past, the reports said. Agents from both agencies identified him.
Mughniyeh is believed to be behind, among other terror incidents, attacks on U.S. and French military targets in Beirut in 1983 that killed 299 people, and the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires that killed 85.
President George W. Bush agreed to the assassination in part because Mughniyeh was believed responsible for attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq at the time.
Lawyers for the Bush administration said the killing did not violate a U.S. ban on assassinations, as Mughniyeh posed an immediate danger to Americans.
Hezbollah blamed Israel for the killing. A number of retaliatory actions since then have failed, and in recent weeks Hezbollah arrested an alleged spy in its upper ranks who was feeding Israel information about the planned attacks.
Israel is believed to be behind the strike on a Hezbollah convoy on the Syrian Golan Heights last month that killed Mughniyeh’s son, but it has neither confirmed nor denied its involvement.