Profile: Who Was Imad Mughniyeh?

The attack on the Israeli embassy in New Delhi serves as a stark reminder that Hezbollah may not have given up on avenging the death of its once top leader.

The car bomb attack which wounded the wife of the Israeli official to New Delhi, along with an attempted attack on the Israeli embassy in Georgia serves as a stark reminder that Hezbollah may not have given up on avenging the death of Imad Mughniyeh.

Mughniyeh, who was a senior Hezbollah leader and one of the most wanted terrorists by the United States and Israel, has been linked to several terrorist attacks on American and Israeli targets around the world. He was killed in 2008 by a car bomb in Damascus.

Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh
Wikimedia Commons

Hezbollah officials have since blamed Israel for his death, a charge the Israelis deny. Israel has stated that it suspects Mughniyeh was killed by Hezbollah rivals and that its security agencies had nothing to do with it. Today Hezbollah has periodically announced its plans to avenge the death of Mughniyeh by retaliating against Israel.

Known by his alias, Hajj, Mughniyeh was skilled in evading capture several times by U.S. security agencies. He began his activities in the 1970s as an organizer of the “student brigade” that assisted Yasser Arafat and other senior PLO officials in Lebanon. It was terror attacks in the 1980s and 1990s that brought Mughniyeh to the attention of the U.S. He was believed to have masterminded the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut and truck bombing of French and U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon.

Argentinean officials charged Mughniyeh in connection with the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires which killed 29 people. He was also implicated in the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia. He is also suspected of brokering the ill-fated Karine A arms shipment to the Palestinian Authority in 2002, and Israel has called him the mastermind of the 2006 cross border raid which sparked the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006.

Mughniyeh had escaped several kidnapping attempts by U.S. agents. He was known for his ability to simply disappear into hiding. In 1986 U.S. agents attempted to captured him in France, however French officials refused to detain him and he escaped. U.S. officials nearly nabbed him in 1995, when he was known to have boarded a flight bound for Saudi Arabia. This operation also failed due to the Saudis’ refusal to permit the plane to land. A similar attempt was called off the following year when Mughniyeh was known to be aboard a ship off the coast of Doha.