Tehran's Terror Master
By Patrick Devenny
FrontPageMagazine.com | May 26, 2005
Early on the morning of March 16th, 1984, William Buckley left for work at the American embassy in Beirut, Lebanon. Officially, Mr. Buckley, a decorated veteran of the Special Forces, served as the political officer at the embassy. In reality, however, Mr. Buckley was the embassy’s CIA station chief. On his way to the compound, Buckley’s car was stopped by a group of masked men, who forced him from his car at gunpoint. His assailants would later be identified as terrorists from the group Islamic Jihad, which served as an alias for the real perpetrators, Hezbollah. The circumstances surrounding the next 15 months of William Buckley’s life remain mysterious to this day. Hints of his plight were provided in disturbing video tapes, in which he appeared worn down and brutalized. It was later revealed that additional tapes were shot showing the CIA station chief being viciously tortured and beaten by Islamic Jihad members. Finally, sometime in October of 1985, Buckley died of pneumonia, no doubt stemming from the lengthy torture sessions. His main interrogator and tormentor was a 21 year old Lebanese terrorist named Imad Mugniyah.
Twenty years later, the butcher of William Buckley still plagues the free world. Imad Mugniyah is the current military commander of the terrorist group Hezbollah, overseeing an international organization which some American officials have dubbed “the A-team of terrorism.” Far less well known than his compatriot and sometimes partner Osama Bin Laden, Mugniyah is arguably more dangerous. Indeed, before the 9-11 attacks, Mugniyah was the prime focus of American anti-terror efforts, not Bin Laden. Comfortable in his anonymity, Mugniyah has successfully carried out some of the most professional terrorist attacks of the last two decades against a wide array of international targets. With Hezbollah currently flexing its muscle as a political force inside Lebanon, it would behoove Americans to remember that the leadership of this so-called “political” organization remains in the hands of dangerous extremists who think nothing of slaughtering hundreds of people at the behest of their masters in Tehran. Mugniyah’s very existence casts doubt on the idea that Hezbollah could ever be an honest participant in a future Lebanese democracy.
While the face of Bin Laden has been prominently featured in every world publication of note and is almost instantly recognizable, the real face of Imad Mugniyah is elusive. Only two or three photographs of the Hezbollah operative are known to exist. Further accentuating the mystery around Mugniyah is the fact that the picture that currently serves as the U.S. Government’s official wanted poster is almost 20 years old. This lack of information stems from the designs of Mugniyah himself, who has methodically erased all records of his existence, including his high school transcripts. What we do know is that Mugniyah was born to a prominent Shiite religious family in southern Lebanon in 1962. Some years later, his family moved to the suburbs of southern Beirut, a region long associated with Shiite radicalism. With the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War in 1975, Mugniyah joined Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organization, which operated numerous terror training camps throughout Lebanon. Mugniyah, still a teenager, rose through the ranks of the PLO quickly, soon becoming a member of its elite commando wing, Force 17, which carried out assassinations at the personal behest of Arafat. This kind of specialized training represented expertise unavailable to most young Islamic militants at the time.
In 1982, an Israeli military offensive expelled most of the PLO infrastructure from Lebanon. Mugniyah chose to stay, serving as a bodyguard to Sayyid Muhammad Fadlallah, the spiritual head of Hezbollah and a key ally of Iran. Then, together with fellow terrorist Hassan Nasrallah, Mugniyah formed the group Islamic Jihad, which served as a convenient cover for the greater Hezbollah organization. That close personal relationship would continue to the present day, as Nasrallah is the current secretary general of Hezbollah. One of the few existing photographs of Mugniyah shows him walking alongside Nasrallah ten years ago in Lebanon. The two fellow terrorists and their group would quickly gain the attention of the West.
The first shot fired in Mugniyah’s war against the West was fired on April 18th, 1983, in Beirut. On that day, a van packed with 2,000 pounds of explosives slammed into the front of the U.S. embassy and exploded with such tremendous force that the front of the building collapsed. The attack killed 63 people, including most of the CIA’s Middle East leadership. Within hours of the attack, Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility. A clue concerning the real perpetrators of the suicide bombing was picked up by U.S. intelligence a month later, when it was revealed that a pre-attack cable from the Iranian foreign ministry had been sent to the Iranian embassy in Syria approving funding for a terrorist attack in Beirut.
The suicide attack against the Beirut embassy was followed up later that year by an even more devastating assault. On the morning of October 23rd, most of the 300 Marines stationed in a compound near Beirut’s airport were sleeping in their barracks, having been deployed to the country to serve as a stabilization force. Then, at 6:33 am, the driver of a Mercedes truck drove straight through the front gate of the compound, past Marine sentries with unloaded weapons, and smashed into the four story concrete barracks. The driver, who reportedly was smiling, then detonated the explosive, estimated to equal the force of 12,000 pounds of TNT. The effects of the massive truck bombing were horrific, killing 220 Marines and 21 other U.S. service members. Again, Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility.
In one day, the entire situation in Lebanon had been drastically altered. The foreign forces would soon leave, wary of further terrorist attacks. With the abandonment of Lebanon by the international community, Islamic Jihad had carried out a virtual terrorist coup d’etat. Over the next ten years, Mugniyah and Hezbollah went on a rampage, taking dozens of Westerners hostage and murdering several others. Major operations included the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 in 1985, where Mugniyah’s men shot a US Navy diver in the head and threw his body on the tarmac of Beirut International Airport. In a case that recalled the horrors of William Buckley, US Marine Lt. Colonel William Higgins was abducted in 1988 by a Hezbollah linked group known to be under the direct command of Mugniyah. Two years later, a ghastly video was released showing a man, thought to be Colonel Higgins, hanging from a ceiling after being tortured. Shortly thereafter, the dead body of Colonel Higgins was dumped on the side of the road in front of the US embassy in Beirut.
Numerous hostages, such as American Kurt Carlson, recall seeing Mugniyah supervise their imprisonment and brutal interrogations. He spoke fluent English, and commanded slavish devotion from his agents. At the same time, the CIA believes Mugniyah was in frequent contact with Iranian intelligence officials, who were directly involved in the murders and the hostage takings. It is a relationship that blossomed in Lebanon and continues to this day.
While Imad Mugniyah’s attacks had concentrated on foreigners, his campaign of terror had stayed geographically constrained to Lebanon and the rest of the Middle East. The American authorities could still regard him and his group as “over there”, limited to the perennially tumultuous region. Unfortunately, they were missing a critical development. Imad Mugniyah was about to defy the oceans that security officials naively assumed held him back. The impetus for this new strategy of offensive terrorism was the 1992 Israeli assassination of Sheik Abbas Musawi, a Hezbollah leader and close associate of Mugniyah.
The Israeli embassy in Argentina was located in a bustling downtown neighborhood of Buenos Aires. On March 17th, 1992, a pickup truck loaded with plastic explosive drove up to the front of the embassy and exploded. The embassy building was destroyed, along with the nearby retirement home and Catholic Church. 28 people were killed, and over 220 wounded. The next target was a seven story building in Buenos Aires that housed two Jewish business organizations. On the morning of July 18th, 1994, a white Renault van pulled up in front of the building and detonated. The building collapsed, killing 85 people. While confusion marred the initial investigations, it became clear to all parties involved that Hezbollah was the culprit, through its subsidiary Islamic Jihad, headed of course by Mugniyah. The smoking gun may have been delivered by an Iranian defector named Abdolghassem Mesbahi, a former senior member of the Iranian Revolutionary Council. In testimony to Argentinean authorities, the defector claimed that Mugniyah had been one of the senior planners behind the attack in Buenos Aires, along with Iranian intelligence.
The twin bombings in Argentina highlighted Mugniyah’s campaign to develop an infrastructure within South America. In 1994, the Hezbollah leader personally visited the “Triple Frontiers”, an area forming the border nexus of Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil that has historically sheltered smugglers and criminals. As many as 30,000 Arab Muslims, who celebrate the anniversary of September 11th, inhabit the small region. Nearby, Hezbollah holds weekend training camps, indoctrinating Arab youth in the extremist literature of the Ayatollah Khomeini. The main mosque in the area was blessed by none other than Imad Mugniyah’s old boss, Sayyid Muhammad Fadlallah. Hezbollah agents regularly extort money and “donations” from various businesses and Muslim organizations, sending the substantial funds back to Lebanon. Mugniyah personally operates a powerful network of operatives inside the region, who help facilitate Hezbollah’s drug smuggling operations throughout South America. In addition, the bombing of Jewish targets inside Argentina were almost certainly connected to the Hezbollah presence in the Triple Frontiers. Telephone records show increased call traffic from Iranian officials to the frontiers region around the time of the bombing.
Mugniyah has also sought to extend Hezbollah’s reach to North America. In 2000, federal authorities arrested 18 men in North Carolina for smuggling cigarettes and other financial crimes. The FBI later revealed that the smuggling ring, led by Lebanese immigrant Mohamad Hammoud, had made 7.9 million dollars, profit which was then sent to Hezbollah. Through a series of associates, Hammoud worked for a man named Mohamad Dbouk, a senior Hezbollah asset who helped run Hezbollah’s extensive criminal operations in Canada. Testifying before the U.S. Senate, U.S. Attorney Robert J. Conrad confirmed that Mugniyah directly oversees the Canadian operations and, by extension, the American division. This reasoning stems from the fact that Dbouk was in direct contact with Hassan Hilu Laqis, a Hezbollah agent operating out of Lebanon who managed many of the procurement projects in North America. In a fax intercepted by Canadian intelligence, Dbouk assures Laqis that he is doing all he possibly can to help Hezbollah. In addition, Dbouk says he will do “anything”, and “he means anything”, to help the “father”. The Canadian prosecutor involved in the case, Kenneth Bell, stated that the father is in fact a codename for Imad Mugniyah. In addition, a recent report in the Washington Times suggested Hezbollah currently runs active cells in at least 10 U.S. cities. Mugniyah has never attacked a target in North America, but with tensions rising between the United States and Iran over the issue of nuclear proliferation, his terrorist network could rapidly become Iran’s weapon of choice against American targets. It would be a familiar role for the veteran terrorist, who, lest we forget, has the blood of over 250 Americans on his hands.
Mugniyah and Al-Qaeda
In 1998, American authorities captured former Green Beret advisor Ali A. Mohamed for his role in the twin terror attacks against U.S. embassies in Africa. Having been a relatively close associate of Bin Laden himself, Mohamed proved to be a treasure trove of information for American investigators. One of his statements, however, proved particularly troubling. In testimony delivered during his court case, Mohamed admitted that in 1994, he had arranged security for a momentous meeting in Sudan. There, Osama Bin Laden met Imad Mugniyah. He also stated that Hezbollah provided training for Al-Qaeda operatives in exchange for weapons and explosives. Indeed, this testimony corresponded with statements made by other Al-Qaeda officials, who told American investigators that the two had met several times in the mid 1990s, where they had discussed a greater degree of cooperation.
The two terrorist leaders may have also coordinated the attack on the Khobar Towers barracks complex in 1996. American investigators have long suspected Iran’s involvement in the bombing that killed 19 American servicemen in Saudi Arabia. The group that supposedly carried out the attacks, Saudi Hezbollah, was led in the 1990s by a close lieutenant of Mugniyah and was trained in Mugniyah run camps in Lebanon. Additionally, the explosives used in the barracks bombing originated in Lebanon. The 9-11 Commission, however, recently suggested that Al-Qaeda may have also played a role in the bombing, suggesting some degree of operational cooperation between the two groups.
The influence of Imad Mugniyah with regards to the Al-Qaeda network has continued, and has strengthened as of late. It appears that at least part of the formal leadership of Al-Qaeda has shifted to Iran, where they stay in close contact with the group’s disparate assets. Men such as Saad Bin Laden and Saif al-Adel continue to plan attacks from Iranian territory, such as the massive Casablanca bombings in 2003. Other Al-Qaeda leaders and fighters have escaped through Iran following the war in Afghanistan. Hamid Zakiri, a former member of the Iranian terrorist coordination command, stated that Mugniyah was the liaison officer to Dr. Ayman Zawahiri and various other international terrorist groups. In addition to this relationship, Mugniyah personally oversaw the escape of dozens of Al-Qaeda figures to Iran, including one of Bin Laden’s wives and her infant child. Apparently, Al-Qaeda leaders have enough trust in Mugniyah’s abilities and intentions as to place their family members into his care.
“The Master Terrorist”
“He is the most dangerous terrorist we've ever faced. He's a--he's a pathological murderer. Mugniyah is probably the most intelligent, most capable operative we've ever run across, including the KGB or anybody else. He enters by one door, exits by another, changes his cars daily, never makes appointments on a telephone, never is predictable, will show up--he only uses people that are related to him that he can trust. He doesn't just recruit people. He is the master terrorist, the grail, we are after since 1983.”
No small praise coming from Robert Baer, a 20 year veteran of the CIA’s clandestine services who once constructed a plan to kill Mugniyah in Lebanon. Imad Mugniyah, unrecognizable and relatively unknown, poses a serious asymmetrical threat to the United States and its allies. He has successfully avoided numerous American and Israeli attempts to capture or kill him. He has access to the massive amount of funding, estimated at 100 million dollars, that Iran annually provides Hezbollah annually. The secrecy surrounding Mugniyah allows him to travel relatively freely, especially in friendly nations such as Iran and Syria. His role in Hezbollah should chasten the Bush administration’s hopes that Hezbollah could eventually transform itself into a purely political organization. With terrorists such as Imad Mugniyah in charge, the idea that Hezbollah could accept a democratic Middle East is dubious to say the least. It should also be made clear to Lebanon’s Shiite population that national democratic reform cannot be sustained over the long term if an armed group like Hezbollah is involved. Instead of awaiting reform that will never come, the American government, with the help of our allies in the region, should seek to isolate this dangerous and inherently anti-democratic terrorist organization.
Patrick Devenny is the Henry M. Jackson National Security Fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington D.C.
Once again, here is I believe, an example of Mugniyeh's reflected light. Mugniyeh is suspected of arranging for the transportation of various people into Iran, particularly Saad bin laden. Almost all of the evidence cited here as appeared in the old Mugniyeh thread.
AP: Intelligence Sees Terrorists in Iran
By KATHERINE SHRADER and JOHN SOLOMON
The Associated Press
Saturday, June 4, 2005; 2:00 AM
WASHINGTON -- Mounting evidence gathered over several years has U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies increasingly convinced that leading terror suspects have been living in Iran.
Their existence in the Islamic republic poses an ongoing problem to top Bush administration officials, who have warned Middle Eastern countries against providing shelter or other aid to terrorists.
The evidence includes communications by a fugitive mastermind of the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing and the capture of a Saudi militant who appeared in a video in which Osama bin Laden confirmed he ordered the Sept. 11 attacks, according to U.S. and foreign officials.
They spoke on condition of anonymity because much of the evidence remains classified.
Saudi intelligence officers tracked and apprehended Khaled bin Ouda bin Mohammed al-Harbi last year in eastern Iran, officials said. The arrest came nearly three years after the cleric had appeared with bin Laden and discussed details of the Sept. 11 planning during a dinner that was videotaped and aired across the world.
The capture was a coup for Saudi Arabia, which spent months tracking him and setting up the intelligence operation that led to his being taken into custody in exchange for eventual amnesty.
The officials said interrogations of al-Harbi, who is now in Saudi Arabia, have yielded confirmation of many al-Qaida tactics, including how members crossed into Iran after the U.S. began military operations to rout al-Qaida and the Taliban from Afghanistan.
Al-Harbi is believed to have been paralyzed from the waist down while fighting in the 1990s alongside Muslim extremists in Bosnia and Afghanistan, and he surprised intelligence officials when he appeared in the December 2001 video with bin Laden.
"Everybody praises what you did," al-Harbi said on the tape.
U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies also have evidence stretching back to the late 1990s that indicates Ahmad Ibrahim al-Mughassil remains in hiding in Iran. He is wanted as one of the masterminds of the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 Americans.
Al-Mughassil, who also goes by the alias Abu Omran, has been charged as a fugitive by the United States _ accused of conspiracy to commit murder in the attacks _ and has a $5 million bounty on his head.
U.S. authorities have long alleged that the 1996 bombing was carried out by a Saudi wing of the militant group Hezbollah, which receives support from Iran and Syria.
Intelligence agencies gathered evidence, including a specific phone number, as early as 1997 indicating that al-Mughassil was living in Iran, and they have other information indicating his whereabouts.
U.S. officials have not publicly discussed the Saudi capture of al-Harbi or their evidence on al-Mughassil's whereabouts, but they have increasingly raised questions about Iran's efforts to turn over other suspected terrorists believed to be under some form of loose house arrest.
Nicholas Burns, State Department undersecretary for political affairs, told Congress last month that Iran has refused to identify al-Qaida members it has in custody.
"Iran continues to hold senior al-Qaida leaders who are wanted for murdering Americans and others in the 1998 East Africa Embassy bombings and for plotting to kill countless others," Burns said.
Top administration officials have repeatedly warned Iran against harboring or assisting suspected terrorists.
U.S. intelligence this week has been checking some reports, still uncorroborated as of Friday, that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaida's leader of the Iraqi insurgency, may have dipped into Iran, officials said.
On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld warned countries in the Middle East not to help al-Zarqawi.
"Were a neighboring country to take him in and provide medical assistance or haven for him, they, obviously, would be associating themselves with a major linkage in the al-Qaida network and a person who has a great deal of blood on his hands," Rumsfeld said.
The U.S. and foreign officials said evidence gathered by intelligence agencies indicates the following figures are somewhere in Iran, perhaps under some form of house arrest or surveillance:
_Saad bin Laden, the son of the al-Qaida leader whom U.S. authorities have aggressively hunted since the Sept. 11 attacks.
_Saif al-Adel, an al-Qaida security chief wanted in connection with the deadly 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa.
_Suleiman Abu Ghaith, the chief of information for al-Qaida and a frequently quoted spokesman for bin Laden.
Kenneth Katzman, a Middle East analyst at the Congressional Research Service, said it's possible that some of the suspected terrorists are being held in guarded villas, and he doubted any detention is uncomfortable.
"I think that Iran sees these guys as something of an insurance policy," Katzman said. "It's leverage."
Rasool Nafisi, a Middle East analyst who studies conservative groups in Iran, said Iran has returned some lower-level operatives to their home countries but probably is keeping higher-ranking operatives as a bartering chip.
"Remember, Islamic tradition is very much based on haggling," Nafisi said. "If I were the Iranian government, I'd be very happy to have them and to use them in future negotiations with the United States."
Last edited by The 801; 06-04-2005 at 08:19 AM.
The FBI hotsheets have started referring to the Khobar Towers fugitives as members of "Saudi Hizbollah". The ones I know of are
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Ahmed Ibrahim al-Mughasil
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Ibrahim Salih Mohammed al-Yacoub
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Abdelkarim Hussein Mohammed al-Nasser
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Ali Saed bin Ali el-Hoorie
Saqr al-Jeddawi (or "The Jeddah Falcon")
Six guys from al-Muqrin's group "al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula" accepted Sheikh Abdullah's amnesty offer some months back; two of those were in Syria and one in Iran.
The Israeli paper Haaretz said that 100-150 Qaedas fled Afghanistan when NATO showed up, and relocated to Ein Hilwe near Sidon with Syrian help. (Syria was in partial control of that area at that time.) Of the several gangs in that so-called Palestinian refugee camp, Asbat al-Ansar is the Wahhabi one.
Umm, real nice work vancouver..Maybe time for a new thread?
It is the position of this writer that Mugniyeh was instrumental in getting most of the AQ who fled Afghanistan, out. And the higher up or personally connected to Bin Laden, the more likely. Mugniyeh has extensive access to smuggling routes and methods that he has used previously.
If anyone is curious, I believe that Mugniyeh is presently at home in Qods, Iran. Or as at home as he can be in his family compound.
By the way, if there are no complaints, I would like to rerun some of the data on the old thread that pertains to current events...
Last edited by The 801; 06-05-2005 at 12:07 PM.
The supreme putdown
By Kenneth R. Timmerman
June 28, 2005
<Here is an editorial by Timmerman. He recounts the data already documented here on itshappening about mugniyeh's ties to al-qaeda. No big surprises here. ......801>
One week before the September 11 commission was scheduled to send its final report to the printers in July 2004, Philip D. Zelikow, the commission's staff director, gathered members together for an unusual briefing.
Commission staff members had discovered a document from a U.S. intelligenceagencythat described in detail Iran's ties to al Qaeda, he said. It had been buried at the bottom of a huge stack of highly classified documents on other subjects that had been delivered to a special high-security reading room in an undisclosed location in Washington. The document summarized the findings of seventy-five distinct intelligence reports.
The commissioners realized that if their report was published and word of the missing documents leaked out later, it would discredit their entire investigation, so they ordered staff to make a last-minute panic run. Mr. Zelikow arranged to have his team review the 75 documents in person the following morning — Sunday — at seven-thirty.
Everything the CIA had been telling the commission up until that point was absolutely cut and dried: There was no connection between al Qaeda and Iran. None, no way. Nada. This was "the Concept," and the intelligence community was wedded to it. "We found perplexing the settled CIA position . . . that there was no meaningful connection at all between al Qaeda and Iran," one commissioner told me when I asked him about this incident.
The documents the team began reading that Sunday morning told a whole different story. The brief, two-page summary that appeared in the September 11 commission's final report gives no idea of the scope of the material the CIA had been sitting on, or the sheer number of intelligence reports. That story has never been told until now.
What the team found that Sunday morning was nothing less than a complete documented record of operational ties between Iran and al Qaeda for the critical months just prior to September 11. "The documents showed Iran was facilitating the travel of al Qaeda operatives, ordering Iranian border inspectors not to put telltale stamps on their passports, thus keeping their travel documents clean," the team leader, a former CIA analyst, told me. "The Iranians were fully aware that they were helping operatives who were part of an organization preparing attacks against the United States."
The U.S. intelligence community was also aware of the help Iran was providing Osama bin Laden's men. But because the analysts were driven by the Concept, they consistently downplayed that relationship. "Old School Ties" was the dismissive title of one post-September 11 analytical report issued by the CIA's counterterrorism center that summarized the early days of bin Laden's cooperation with Iran. These reports showed that, as the team leader told me, "by late 1993, early 1994 there had been a handshake between bin Laden and Iran." A handshake and operational cooperation.
Most troubling were masses of reports on Iranian intelligence operative Imad Mugniyeh, whom the September 11 commission report obliquely refers to as "a senior Hezbollah operative." The raw reporting showed that well before September 11, the United States had hard intelligence that the Tehran regime had appointed Mugniyeh as the point man for operational contacts with bin Laden's men. That coincided with information an Iranian defector brought to the CIA four months before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Before September 11, Mugniyeh had killed more Americans than any other terrorist. Putting him together with bin Laden was like throwing a match onto a pile of oil-soaked rags. And yet no alarm bells seem to have gone off. Mugniyeh is not even named in the final commission report.
The source reports showed that Mugniyeh coordinated the travel of eight to ten of the "muscle hijackers" between Saudi Arabia, Beirut and Iran in October and November 2000, and personally traveled with one hijacker from Saudi Arabia to Beirut before his trip on to Iran.
Frustrated by their late discovery of the documents, which prevented them from investigating further, the authors of the September 11 commission report's chapter 7 resorted to irony. It was always possible that so much coordination was simply a "remarkable coincidence" and that "Hezbollah was actually focusing on some other group of individuals traveling from Saudi Arabia during this same time frame, rather than the future hijackers."
Even in its post-September 11 reporting, which then CIA director George Tenet tried unsuccessfully to prevent the commission from reviewing, the CIA simply assumed that the hijackers were traveling through Iran, not to Iran, my sources on the commission said. It was the Concept again. The fact that Mugniyeh had become al Qaeda's travel agent never hit home. "Every time they came up with a smoking gun, the analysts came back and said, yes, that's interesting, but it's not actionable," one commissioner told me. It was the supreme putdown.
Last edited by The 801; 06-28-2005 at 04:53 PM.
Reason: readabilty and added funny stuff...
I'm checking on this story..... 801
U.S. Reiterates $5M Reward for HijackersBy ZEINA KARAM
The Associated Press
Wednesday, June 29, 2005; 3:33 PM
BEIRUT, Lebanon -- With Lebanon free of Syria's grasp, the United States issued an unusual reminder Wednesday about the millions of dollars still offered for information on three Shiite Muslims who hijacked an American passenger jet 20 years ago, killing a Navy SEAL.
The three are still believed to be in Lebanon or Syria, the U.S. Embassy in Beirut said in a statement on its Web site, adding that it is offering a $5 million reward for information on their whereabouts.
"The United States will pay cash rewards in any currency for information that assists in bringing to justice those who murder and terrorize its citizens," it said.
Both Lebanon and Syria have denied the three men are on their soil.
TWA Flight 847 was hijacked in 1985 on a flight from Athens to Rome, and during a 17-day standoff at Beirut's airport, gunmen killed U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem and threw his body onto the tarmac.
The rewards are offered for Imad Mughniyeh, the former Hezbollah security chief who is also accused in the kidnappings of Americans in Beirut and other terror attacks, as well as two other men linked to Hezbollah, Hassan Izz-Al-Din and Ali Atwa.
The embassy said the reminder was timed for the 20th anniversary of the June 14, 1985, hijacking. But it also came at a time of dramatic change in Lebanon.
Syria's military withdrew in April after a 29-year presence, and Damascus' longtime control of Lebanon has crumbled. Syria's opponents have a majority in parliament and are putting together a government.
Syria has long been accused of protecting militant groups in Lebanon, but its ability to do so now is hampered. Individuals may be more willing to come forward with information now without the shadow of reprisals from Syrian intelligence agents _ who once kept a grip on even day-to-day aspects of Lebanese life.
Hezbollah, the Syrian-backed guerrilla group that is now taking a stronger role in Lebanese politics, has denied any link to the hijacking.
The reminder of the reward also came as a U.N. team is in Beirut to investigate the Feb. 14 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri. The inquiry has set a precedent in a country where scores of assassinations have gone unpunished, and has raised hopes that other crimes might be investigated.
The hijacking of Flight 847 produced some of the more notorious images of the attacks on Westerners that occurred during Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war. One photo showed a hijacker holding a gun to pilot John Testrake's head as they leaned out of the cockpit window during the standoff.
The passenger jet was hijacked by Shiite Muslim extremists with 153 people, mostly Americans, aboard. The hijackers forced the plane to fly back and forth several times between Algiers and Beirut airport. On the second day of the seizure, June 15, Stethem, 23, was killed.
After mediation by Shiite moderates, the hostages were released June 30, but the hijackers went free. Nothing has been heard about them since the civil war ended in 1990.
All three men were indicted in the U.S. in absentia for their role in the hijacking. The rewards were first posted when the U.S. put out a list of the 22 most wanted following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
The TWA hijacking came during Lebanon's chaotic sectarian-driven civil war. Mughniyeh's forces were linked to the kidnapping of scores of Americans, Frenchmen, Britons, Germans and other foreigners in Lebanon at about the same period.
Mughniyeh is also suspected of being behind suicide attacks against the U.S. Embassy and the Marine base in Lebanon in the 1980s, bombings that killed more than 260 Americans. His present connections to Hezbollah are unclear.
On the Net:
U.S. list of wanted terrorists and rewards: http://www.rewardsforjustice.net/
Key Al Qaeda role for bin Laden son
Saad bin Laden part of network’s upper echelon
By Douglas Farah and Dana Priest
THE WASHINGTON POST
Oct. 14 — Saad bin Laden, one of Osama bin Laden’s oldest sons, has emerged in recent months as part of the upper echelon of the al Qaeda network, a small group of leaders that is managing the terrorist organization from Iran, according to U.S., European and Arab officials.
SAAD BIN LADEN and other senior al Qaeda operatives were in contact with an al Qaeda cell in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in the days immediately prior to the May 12 suicide bombing there that left 35 people dead, including eight Americans, European and U.S. intelligence sources say. The sources would not divulge the nature or contents of the communications, but the contacts have led them to conclude that the Riyadh attacks were planned in Iran and ordered from there.
PASSING THE MANTLE
Although Saad bin Laden is not the top leader of the terrorist group, his presence in the decision-making process demonstrates his father’s trust in him and an apparent desire to pass the mantle of leadership to a family member, according to numerous terrorism analysts inside and outside of government.
Like other al Qaeda leaders in Iran, the younger bin Laden, who is believed to be 24 years old, is protected by an elite, radical Iranian security force loyal to the nation’s clerics and beyond the control of the central government, according to U.S. and European intelligence officials. The secretive unit, known as the Jerusalem Force, has restricted the al Qaeda group’s movements to its bases, mostly along the border with Afghanistan.
Also under the Jerusalem Force’s protection is Saif al-Adel, al Qaeda’s chief of military operations; Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, the organization’s chief financial officer, and perhaps two dozen other top al Qaeda leaders, the officials said. Al-Adel and Abdullah are considered the top operational deputies to Osama bin Laden and his second-in-command, Ayman Zawahiri, who communicate with underlings almost exclusively through couriers.
The presence of Saad bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders in Iran has become part of a debate within the governments of the United States and Saudi Arabia over the best way to reduce Iranian support for terrorism. U.S. officials have sent stern warnings to the government of President Mohammad Khatami that Iran’s harboring of senior al Qaeda operatives would have repercussions for a nation the Bush administration has labeled part of the “axis of evil.”
Intelligence officials believe that although the State Department is eager to renew talks with Iran on a variety of issues, primarily its nuclear program, it is not clear whether that nation’s civilian government could deliver its end of any bargain, especially if it entailed turning over al Qaeda leaders.
“Iran will continue to pursue an asymmetric strategy in which they court Western acceptance, while maintaining their surrogate leadership roles within the Islamic extremist community,” a U.S. intelligence analysis says.
Similarly, Saudi Arabia, which in recent years has tried to thaw relations with its larger and more powerful neighbor across the Persian Gulf, is trying, unsuccessfully, to persuade Iran to extradite Saad bin Laden and others suspected in the Riyadh bombing. Saudi officials estimate there are up to 400 al Qaeda members there.
‘SOMEBODY MUST BE HELPING THEM’
“Those people are in Iran and somebody must be helping them. The question is who?” Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador, told the San Francisco Chronicle last month. “This is the problem with Iran. The people who we can deal with can’t deliver, they can’t lead eight ducks across the street. And the guys who can deliver, they’re not interested.”
As a child, Saad bin Laden was at his father’s side in Afghanistan in the mid-1980s when Osama bin Laden formed the Al Qaeda network. The younger bin Laden was groomed to take a leadership role in the terrorism organization. He is fluent in English and is computer-literate, two qualities rare among al Qaeda leaders and assets that have enhanced his importance beyond his family name.
Yet Saad has only recently emerged as an important target for the CIA, FBI and other organizations trying to disrupt the terrorist network. It has only been since his arrival in Iran in the last year that he has assumed a more active role in directing al Qaeda, and that he has been identified as a senior leader. Before that, analysts said, he often sat with his father in leadership meetings but seldom spoke and was not given a voice in deliberations.
Many experts believe, for example, that he also had direct involvement in coordinating a series of bombings on May 16 that killed 45 people in Casablanca, Morocco.
‘Because his father is incommunicado, a lot of people are looking to Saad to give them direct instructions.’
— KENNETH KATZMAN
Congressional Research Service Kenneth Katzman, a terrorism analyst for the Congressional Research Service, said Saad “is touted as his father’s stand-in. Because his father is incommunicado, a lot of people are looking to Saad to give them direct instructions.”
While there is broad agreement that Saad bin Laden’s role within al Qaeda has grown increasingly important in the past six months, not everyone agrees he is now a senior operational commander. One U.S. intelligence official said Saad is “more of a player than most of the offspring, but not that significant.” Osama Bin Laden has more than two dozen children with five wives.
But European intelligence officials and independent analysts said Saad bin Laden, while not the most important al Qaeda leader, is helping to make key operational decisions and is an important part of al Qaeda’s logistical network. Some analysts believe he was very close to Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, who was captured in March.
“Saad is capable of mounting operations against the West because he knows the West very well,” said Rohan Gunaratna, director of terrorism research at the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies in Singapore. “Saad has been very close to his father, almost functioning as his bodyguard.”
Saad bin Laden is one of the eldest sons of bin Laden and his first wife, Najwa Ghanem, a Syrian who is also the terrorist leader’s first cousin. The couple had 11 children, but Osama bin Laden has taken at least four other wives and divorced one, according to biographies in the Arab press and U.S. officials. Islam allows men to take as many as four wives at one time.
Born in Saudi Arabia, Saad bin Laden spent time with his father in Afghanistan during the war against the Soviet occupation. His father returned to Saudi Arabia in 1989, but left in 1991 to settle in Sudan. Again, Saad accompanied him. When bin Laden returned to Afghanistan in 1996, so did Saad.
According to one terrorism expert, Osama bin Laden was filmed in Afghanistan admonishing al Qaeda members not to expect their children to take leadership positions in the movement unless the children were willing to work hard for the cause. Bin Laden then singled Saad out for praise as a hard worker and said he was proud of his son.
Gunaratna said that an analysis of bin Laden’s satellite telephone calls from 1996 to 1998 showed that more than 10 percent were placed to Iran, demonstrating the ongoing contacts with Iran during that time.
Officials said there is also evidence that another key liaison between the hard-line Iranian factions and al Qaeda is Imad Mugniyah, one of the world’s most wanted terrorists.
Mugniyah, a Lebanese national and senior Hezbollah leader, is responsible for the kidnapping and murder of several Americans, as well as the hijacking of aircraft and the bombing of U.S. military barracks in Beirut in the 1980s, according to the FBI and CIA. Before Sept. 11, 2001, he was responsible for the deaths of more Americans than any other terrorist.
According to court testimony of former al Qaeda operatives, Mugniyah met bin Laden several times in Sudan in the mid-1990s and agreed to train al Qaeda combatants in the use of explosives and other techniques in exchange for weapons.
A description of Mugniyah’s ongoing role was provided to authorities by a member of the Jerusalem Force who defected to Britain earlier this year. In a February interview with the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sarq al-Awsat, the defector said Mugniyah remained in Iran and had personally “planned the escape of dozens of al Qaeda men to Iran.”
The defector, Hamid Zakiri, said Mugniyah served as “a liaison officer with Dr. Zawahiri and with commanders of other fundamentalist organizations.”
Zakiri said that among those Mugniyah aided were bin Laden’s youngest wife, Amal al-Saddah, and her infant child, whom he provided with safe passage from Afghanistan through Iran to her homeland of Yemen as the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan began.
European intelligence sources said that much of Zakiri’s information had been verified.
Research editor Margot Williams contributed to this report.
Last edited by The 801; 08-06-2005 at 06:19 PM.
Reason: add bold face...
Some Bombs Used in Iraq Are Made in Iran, U.S. Says
By ERIC SCHMITT
Published: August 6, 2005
WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 - Many of the new, more sophisticated roadside bombs used to attack American and government forces in Iraq have been designed in Iran and shipped in from there, United States military and intelligence officials said Friday, raising the prospect of increased foreign help for Iraqi insurgents.
Forum: The Transition in Iraq
American commanders say the deadlier bombs could become more common as insurgent bomb makers learn the techniques to make the weapons themselves in Iraq.
But just as troubling is that the spread of the new weapons seems to suggest a new and unusual area of cooperation between Iranian Shiites and Iraqi Sunnis to drive American forces out - a possibility that the commanders said they could make little sense of given the increasing violence between the sects in Iraq.
Unlike the improvised explosive devices devised from Iraq's vast stockpiles of missiles, artillery shells and other arms, the new weapons are specially designed to destroy armored vehicles, military bomb experts say. The bombs feature shaped charges, which penetrate armor by focusing explosive power in a single direction and by firing a metal projectile embedded in the device into the target at high speed. The design is crude but effective if the vehicle's armor plating is struck at the correct angle, the experts said.
Since they first began appearing about two months ago, some of these devices have been seized, including one large shipment that was captured last week in northeast Iraq coming from Iran. But one senior military officer said "tens" of the devices had been smuggled in and used against allied forces, killing or wounding several Americans throughout Iraq in the past several weeks.
"These are among the most sophisticated and most lethal devices we've seen," said the senior officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicate intelligence reports describing the bombs. "It's very serious."
Pentagon and intelligence officials say that some shipments of the new explosives have contained both components and fully manufactured devices, and may have been spirited into Iraq along the porous Iranian border by the Iranian-backed, anti-Israeli terrorist group Hezbollah, or by Iran's Revolutionary Guard. American commanders say these bombs closely matched those that Hezbollah has used against Israel.
"The devices we're seeing now have been machined," said a military official who has access to classified reporting on the insurgents' bomb-making abilities. "There is evidence of some sophistication."
American officials say they have no evidence that the Iranian government is involved. But Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the new United States ambassador in Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad, complained publicly this week about the Tehran government's harmful meddling in Iraqi affairs.
"There is movement across its borders of people and matériel used in violent acts against Iraq," Mr. Khalilzad said Monday.
But some Middle East specialists discount any involvement by the Iranian government or Hezbollah, saying it would be counter to their interests to support Iraq's Sunni Arab insurgents, who have stepped up their attacks against Iraqi Shiites. These specialists suggest that the arms shipments are more likely the work of criminals, arms traffickers or splinter insurgent groups.
"Iran's protégés are in control in Iraq right now, yet these weapons are going to people fighting Iran's protégés," said Kenneth Katzman, a Persian Gulf expert at the Congressional Research Service and a former Middle East analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency. "That makes little sense to me."
One of Iran's top priorities is to get the United States out of Iraq, which means keeping up the violence there. At the same time, that clearly works against their other goal, which is to get religious Shiites in power and keep them in power. Right now, popular support for the government of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, which is friendly toward Iran, is waning because it cannot deal effectively with the Sunni-based insurgency.
And while American military intelligence officers believe Iranian intelligence has a large presence in Iraq, they say it hasn't been working to destabilize the country.
American commanders say they first saw the use of the new explosives in the predominantly Shiite area of southern Iraq, including Basra, but their use by insurgents steadily migrated into Sunni-majority areas north and west of Baghdad. It was unclear how the transfers were taking place.
The seizure of the recent arms shipment from Iran was first reported on Thursday night by NBC News and CBS News.
The influx of the new explosives comes as allied commanders are stepping up efforts to stop the infiltration of fighters, weapons and equipment along Iraq's porous borders with Iran and Syria. Ten days ago, for instance, Iraqi border enforcement agents seized a major shipment of weapons, apparently small arms, that officials suspect may have come from Iran, Maj. Gen. J. B. Dutton of the British Marines, commander of allied forces in southern Iraq, told reporters on Friday in a conference call from Basra.
More troubling are the broad array of roadside bombs that range from the improvised explosives made from modified 155-millimeter artillery shells and other materials to antitank mines like those that military officials say caused the blast on Wednesday that killed 14 marines and an Iraqi civilian in western Iraq.
American troops and the insurgents have been engaged for months in an expanding test of tactics and technology, with the guerrillas building bigger and more clever devices and the Americans trying to counter them at each turn.
"The terrorists are trying to adapt to that level of protection that our forces have; they have been motivated to try to find a way to get advantage," Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, a military spokesman in Baghdad, said at a news conference on Thursday. "And occasionally, we're seeing I.E.D.'s that are sufficiently lethal as to challenge some of the level of protection."
Military officials say they are thwarting about 40 percent of the roadside bombs before they detonate, employing a range of countermeasures from jamming devices that disrupt the frequency of the explosives' triggers, to heightened patrols. Last week, the military successfully cleared 115 roadside bombs, General Alston said. But such bombs remain the No. 1 killer of American troops in Iraq.
"It's not just about the armor that you carry," he said. "It's about your tactics, and it's about how you evolve and develop those and try to defend yourself before those things detonate as well."
this mugniyeh thread is really getting me intrigued,
is there, a detailed site, about this guys info?
Thanks for you interest siddharthramana. This is the only site on the Internet that actually tracks information concerning Mugniyeh. The best place for information is the original itshappening site listed at the beginning of this section.
search on Mugniyeh
Presently, I have a few theories on Mugniyeh that I am doing some research on.
1) He assisted Saad Bin laden to escape to Iran, where he presently is.
2) Mugniyeh has a home in Qods, the same town where Bin laden had a home. They know each other.
3) I believe that Mugniyeh is in Iran, and probably has started his own Madrass. I would allow him to train the next generation of terrorist.
4) While there is information that Mugniyeh served on the shira council in Lebanon, I have set below an article that would indicate that he is going to now be active or at least have a strong voice in the new Iranian government.
This article indicates that one of his main co - conspirator in the Lebanon bombing is now in power in the new Iranian government.
Send me a message if you want to see any of the other information that i have collect on the most dangerous man in the world.
Iran’s defense chief tied to Beirut bombing of U.S. Marines
Sun. 14 Aug 2005
London, Aug. 14 - The nomination of a veteran commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as the new defense minister has been greeted with calls for an investigation into his possible ties to the suicide bombing of the U.S. Marines compound in Beirut airport in October 1983, which killed 241 Americans.
Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar, a senior commander in the Revolutionary Guards, was in command of the IRGC expeditionary force in Lebanon when on October 23, 1983, at 6:22 a.m., a suicide bomber drove a large water delivery truck to the Beirut International Airport where the Marine Barracks was located. The bomber and his accomplices had hijacked the original truck on its way to the airport and sent another one, loaded with explosives, in its place.
After turning onto an access road leading to the compound, the driver rushed through a barbed-wire fence, passed between two sentry posts, crashed through the gate, and slammed into the lobby of the barracks. The huge explosion crumbled the four-story building, crushing the soldiers to death while they were sleeping.
All the windows at the airport control tower, half a mile away, shattered. A crater eight feet deep was carved into the earth, and 15 feet of rubble was all that remained of the four-story Marine barracks.
The attack killed 241 U.S. service members. The Americans quickly withdrew their forces from Lebanon and the suicide operation became a turning point in the increasing use of terrorism by radical Islamic fundamentalists across the world.
Two years ago, a U.S. federal court order identified the suicide bomber as Ismail Ascari, an Iranian national.
In July 1987, Iran’s then-Minister of Revolutionary Guards, Mohsen Rafiqdoost, said, “Both the TNT and the ideology which in one blast sent to hell 400 officers, NCOs, and soldiers at the Marines headquarters were provided by Iran”.
Rafiqdoost’s comments were published in the Tehran daily Ressalat on July 20, 1987.
Iran’s hard-line newspapers continue to feature stories that commemorate the Beirut bombing and the country’s Headquarters for Commemoration of Martyrs of Global Islamic Movement held a memorial ceremony in Tehran’s Behesht-e Zahra Cemetery last December to “honour the man who carried out the largest martyrdom-seeking operation against Global Arrogance [the United States and its allies]…and was able to kill more than 300 occupiers of Lebanon with his courageous operation in 1983”.
A U.S. Defense Department report on the Beirut attack said the force of the explosion “ripped the building from its foundation. The building then imploded upon itself”.
The U.S. court order described the blast as "the largest non-nuclear explosion that had ever been detonated on the face of the Earth”. It was equal in force to between 15,000 and 21,000 pounds of TNT.
Now some terrorism experts want a thorough investigation by the U.S. or an international body to determine the role of Iran’s new defence minister in the attack.
“Those who are knowledgeable about the October 1983 terrorist attack in Beirut know that the Iranian regime was behind it”, said David Neil, a Middle East affairs analyst based in London. “Iran’s new defence minister was in command of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards force in Lebanon at the time. This is acknowledged in his official biography that was carried by Iran’s government-owned news agencies today”.
“We must conduct a thorough investigation and bring the perpetrators and masterminds of that terrorist act to justice”, said Simon Bailey of the Gulf Intelligence Monitor. “For two decades, the Beirut bombing has been a landmark for terrorist impunity. Now is the time to change it”.
Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar joined the IRGC soon after it was formed in 1979, only days after the victory of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s Islamic revolution that overthrew the Shah of Iran. Almost immediately, Mohammad-Najjar took part in the bloody campaign to suppress the Kurdish uprising in western Iran in 1979.
After his return to Tehran, Mohammad-Najjar worked as a staff officer in the Central Command Headquarters of the IRGC. His performance in the opening stages of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980 won him quick promotion in IRGC, then a newly-formed army that relied more on ideological loyalty than military skills.
By 1982, the IRGC had turned the tide in the war against Iraq. After a succession of impressive battlefield victories, the Revolutionary Guards were now on the offensive. The new situation led the IRGC High Command to expand its operations in pursuit of export of Islamic revolution beyond Iraq. With Ayatollah Khomeini’s blessing, the Revolutionary Guards set up a Middle East Directorate and Mohammad-Najjar, who was a fluent Arabic speaker, became its commander.
The Middle East Directorate’s area of operation included Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan and the Persian Gulf states. The IRGC sent a 1,500-man expeditionary force to Syria and the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon in 1982 and played a key role in the formation of the Lebanese Hezbollah.
Mohammad-Najjar remained in command of IRGC’s Middle East operations until 1985. During those years, the IRGC expanded its presence and influence in Lebanon, both directly and through its proxies, and established active ties with radical Palestinian and Arab groups in the region.
Mohammad-Najjar’s forces were also actively expanding their clandestine presence in Iran’s southern neighbours, including Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Mohammad-Najjar became head of the IRGC’s Military Industries Organisation in 1985 and later developed the 230-mm “super mortars” that were intended for use by the Revolutionary Guards’ Qods Force for terrorist operations in Europe and the Middle East.
The choice of Mohammad-Najjar as Defence Minister by fellow Revolutionary Guards commander Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not surprising. President Ahmadinejad is closely allied with the top brass of the IRGC, who played a crucial role in ensuring his victory in the recent presidential elections.
Last edited by The 801; 08-15-2005 at 08:33 AM.