Janes Defense Weekly
September 19, 2001
Who did it? Foreign Report presents an alternative view
Israel’s military intelligence service, Aman, suspects that Iraq is the state that sponsored the suicide attacks on the New York Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington. Directing the mission, Aman officers believe, were two of the world’s foremost terrorist masterminds: the Lebanese Imad Mughniyeh, head of the special overseas operations for Hizbullah, and the Egyptian Dr Ayman Al Zawahiri, senior member of Al-Qaeda and possible successor of the ailing Osama Bin Laden.
The two men have not been seen for some time. Mughniyeh is probably the world’s most wanted outlaw. Unconfirmed reports in Beirut say he has undergone plastic surgery and is unrecognisable. Zawahiri is thought to be based in Egypt. He could be Bin Laden’s chief representative outside Afghanistan.
The Iraqis, who for several years paid smaller groups to do their dirty work, were quick to discover the advantages of Al-Qaeda. The Israeli sources claim that for the past two years Iraqi intelligence officers were shuttling between Baghdad and Afghanistan, meeting with Ayman Al Zawahiri. According to the sources, one of the Iraqi intelligence officers, Salah Suleiman, was captured last October by the Pakistanis near the border with Afghanistan. The Iraqis are also reported to have established strong ties with Imad Mughniyeh.
"We’ve only got scraps of information, not the full picture," admits one intelligence source, "but it was good enough for us to send a warning six weeks ago to our allies that an unprecedented massive terror attack was expected. One of our indications suggested that Imad Mughniyeh met with some of his dormant agents on secret trips to Germany. We believe that the operational brains behind the New-York attack were Mughniyeh and Zawahiri, who were probably financed and got some logistical support from the Iraqi Intelligence Service (SSO)."
Mughniyeh was the only one believed to have tried it before. On April 12th 1997, he was reported to be only two hours away from achieving the highest goal of any terrorist organisation (until last week): blowing up an Israeli El-Al airliner above Tel Aviv. A man carrying a forged British passport with the name Andrew Jonathan Neumann was in a Jerusalem hotel preparing a bomb he was supposed to take on board an El-Al flight leaving Israel, when it accidentally went off. Andrew Jonathan Neumann was very badly injured but strong enough to reveal later to the Israelis that he was not British but Lebanese, and that his operation was supposed to be a special "gift" to Israel from Imad Mughniyeh.
"Bin Laden is a schoolboy in comparison with Mughniyeh," says an Israeli who knows Mughniyeh . "The guy is a genius, someone who refined the art of terrorism to its utmost level. We studied him and reached the conclusion that he is a clinical psychopath motivated by uncontrollable psychological reasons, which we have given up trying to understand. The killing of his two brothers by the Americans only inflamed his strong motivation."
Experts on Iraq and Saddam Hussein also believe that Iraq was the state behind the two terror masterminds. "In recent months, there was a change, and Iraq decided to get into the terror business. On July 7th, they tried for the first time to send a suicide bomber, trained in Baghdad, to blow up Tel Aviv airport (Foreign Report No. 2651)."
Our sources believe that it will be very difficult to get to the bottom of this unprecedented terror operation. However, they believe the chief of the Iraqi SSO is Qusai Hussein, the dictator’s son, and his organisation is the most likely to have been involved.
Mughniyeh, 48, is a "sick man", says an intelligence officer who was in charge of his file. He is considered by Western intelligence agencies as the most dangerous active terrorist today. He is wanted by several governments and the Americans have put a $2m reward on his head.
[Detailed list of Mughniyeh operations removed for Non-Subscriber Extract]
It was the assassination of one man in March 1984 that is said to have made Mughniyeh the CIA’s most wanted terrorist. Mughniyeh allegedly kidnapped the head of the CIA station in Beirut, William Buckley. The kidnapping triggered what later became known as ‘Irangate’, when the Americans tried to exchange Buckley (and others) with arms for Iran. However, the attempt ended in a fiasco. By one unconfirmed account, Mughniyeh tortured and killed Buckley with his own hands.
A year later, in a combined CIA/Mossad operation, a powerful car bomb went off at the entrance to the house of Hizbullah’s spiritual leader, Sheikh Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah. Seventy-five people were killed. One of them was his brother. Hunted by the CIA and the Mossad, Mughniyeh hid in Iran.
In February 1992, Israeli helicopter gunships attacked the convoy of the then head of Hizbullah, Sheikh Abas Musawi, in South Lebanon. Musawi, his wife and children were killed and the revenge attack followed a month later. According to press reports, Mughniyeh was called back into action and, in a well-planned and devastating attack, his people blew up the Israeli embassy in Argentina. The building was demolished and 92 were killed. Only last year, after a long investigation, did Argentina issue a warrant for Mughniyeh’s arrest.
The reprisal for the attack in Argentina came in December 1994, when a car bomb went off in a southern Shi’ite suburb of Beirut. Four people were killed. One of them was called Mughniyeh, but to the deep disappointment of those Israelis who planted the bomb it was the wrong one. Mughniyeh’s life was saved, but his other brother Fuad was killed. Mughniyeh waited for his opportunity for revenge.
Our Israeli sources claim to see Mughniyeh’s signature on the wreckage in New York and Washington. How to counter this kind of terrorism? "To fight these bastards you don’t need a military attack," said an experienced Israeli commando officer. "You only need to adopt Israel’s assassination policy."