Imad Fayez Mughniyah, otherwise known as Hajj Radwan, was a senior member of the Hezbollah organization. He was alternatively described as the head of its security section, a senior intelligence official and as a founder of the organization. Mugniyah has been associated with the Beirut barracks and United States Embassy bombings in 1983, which killed over 350 people as well as the kidnapping of dozens of foreigners in Lebanon in the 1980s. He was indicted in Argentina for his alleged role in the 1992 Israeli Embassy attack in Buenos Aires. Mugniyah is thought to have killed more Americans than any other single terrorist before the September 11 attacks.
Detailed information on Mughniyah is limited. The FBI reports that he went by the alias of Hajj as well as Abu Dokhan - Arabic for “smoke-bearer” or “father of smoke” because he was allegedly skilled in disappearing when pursued by authorities. Mughniyah was included in the European Union’s list of wanted terrorists and had a $5 million bounty on the U.S. Most Wanted Terrorist list.
In the mid-1970s, Mughniyah organized the “Student Brigade,” a unit of 100 young men which became part of Yasser Arafat‘s elite Force 17 which was an armed branch of the Fatah movement charged with providing security for Yasser Arafat and other prominent PLO officials.
Mughniyah was a student in the engineering department at the American University of Beirut in 1981 when Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982.
Mughniyah was linked to many terrorist attacks in the 1980s and 1990s, primarily against American and Israeli targets. These include the April 18, 1983 bombing of the United States embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, which killed 63 people including 17 Americans.
Mughniyah was fingered as the mastermind of the October 23, 1983 simultaneous truck bombings against French paratroopers and the U.S. Marine barracks, attacks which killed 58 French soldiers and 241 Marines. On September 20, 1984, Mughinyah is alleged to have attacked the US embassy annex building. The United States indicted him for the June 14, 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847, which resulted in the death of U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem. He was also linked to numerous kidnappings of Westerners in Beirut through the 1980s, most notably that of Terry Anderson, and William Francis Buckley, who was the CIA station chief in Beirut. Some of these individuals were later killed, such as Buckley, who was brutally beaten to death. Mugniyah has also been tied to the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996, which killed 19 Americans and one Saudi citizen.
Mughniyah has been formally charged by Argentina with participating in the March 17, 1992 bombings of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, which killed 29 people and the AMIA cultural building in July 1994, which left 86 people dead. He has also been accused of orchestrating the 2000 abductions of three Israeli soldiers in the northern part of Israel and the kidnapping of Israeli businessman Elchanan Tenenbaum and in the 2006 Lebanon conflict, killing eight soldiers and abducting two.
Mughniyah has been allegedly linked to Palestinian operations such as the Karine A incident in 2002, where the Palestinian Authority was accused of importing fifty tons of weapons.
Various law enforcement agencies attempted to capture Mughniyah over the years. The United States tried to secure his capture in France in 1986, but were thwarted by French refusal to detain him.
The United States tried to capture Mughniyah several times afterwards as well, the first being a 1995 attempt to detain him on a Saudi Arabian bound flight. Saudi officials, however, refused to allow the plane to land. The next year, U.S. military personnel planned to seize him off a ship in Doha, Qatar, but the operation was called off.
On October 10, 2001, Mughniyah appeared on the initial list of the FBI’s top 22 Most Wanted Terrorists, which was released to the public by President Bush, with a reward of up to $5 million offered for information leading to his arrest.
The Israeli government also made several alleged attempts to assassinate Mughniyah.
Imad Mughniyah was killed on February 12, 2008 by a car bomb blast around 11:00 pm local time in the Kfar Suseh neighborhood of Damascus, Syria. He had reportedly been the target of the Israeli Mossad in the 1990s, but Israel denied responsibility for the killing. The U.S. Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, suggested that internal Hezbollah factions or Syria may be to blame for the killing.
The Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai reported that Hezbollah sources said they would retaliate for Mughniyah’s death by assassinating Israeli leaders.
On February 27 Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported that several Arab states helped the Mossad carry out the bombing.
In August 2008, Hezbollah opened a multi-media exhibit in Nabatiye, Lebanon, commemorating Mughniyah as a Hezbollah hero. The exhibit includes display cases containing personal possessions such as his prayer mat, slippers and hairbrush, along with guns, tanks, bloodstained clothing and fake skeletons portraying the so-called “invincible Israeli soldier.” Busloads of schoolchildren are brought in to learn the “culture of resistance.”