/ 13 February 2008

Hezbollah commander killed in Syria blast

Hezbollah military commander Imad Moughniyah was killed by a car bomb in Damascus on Tuesday, the Lebanese group said, announcing the death of the man believed to be behind Western hostage taking in Lebanon in the 1980s.

Hezbollah, which is backed by Syria and Iran, accused Israel of killing Moughniyah, thought to be in his late 40s.

”After a life full of jihad, sacrifices and accomplishments … Haj Imad Moughniyah … died a martyr at the hands of the Israeli Zionists,” said Hezbollah, which fought a 34-day war in 2006 with the Jewish state.

Islamic Jihad, a shadowy pro-Iranian group widely believed linked to Hezbollah, kidnapped several Western hostages, including Americans, in Beirut in the mid 1980s.

The group, at the time thought to be commanded by Moughniyah, killed a few of its captives and exchanged others for United States weapons to Iran in what was later known as the Iran-Contra scandal.

Among the victims of Islamic Jihad was the CIA’s station chief.

The group was also linked to suicide bomb attacks against the US embassy and marine headquarters in Lebanon in the 1980s.

Moughniyah’s brother was killed in a similar attack in Beirut in 1994. Reports at the time suggested Imad was the real target. Moughniyah had spent much of the 1990s in Iran making only few visits to Beirut.

Some reports suggested he was in charge of Hezbollah’s operations abroad and link him to attacks on Israeli targets in Latin America in the 1990s. – Reuters