A debkafile Special Reveals the Hand Behind the Abduction of Three Israeli Soldiers: IMAD MUGHNIYE – Master Hostage-Taker, Hizballah Fanatic and F

debkafile‘s Hizballah and terrorist experts point to the man they believe to have conceived, planned and staged the kidnap last Saturday of three Israeli sappers from the Shaaba Farm outpost on Mount Dov: the shadowy master-terrorist Imad Mughniyeh, who was responsible for making Beirut of the eighties the kidnap capital of the world, before moving to Tehran as the hard line Ayatollah Khamanei’s special adviser on terror and intelligence.
If this is the case, the prospect of an early recovery of the Israeli soldiers is not good; neither is it much good for the Israeli Prime Ehud Barak to hold the fanatical Lebanese Hizballah group and the Lebanese and Syrian governments responsible. Imad Mughniyeh is a force apart, obeying only his Iranian masters, President Khamanei and the heads of the Revolutionary Guards intelligence organs. It was into their hands that the missing Israeli air force navigator Ron Arad was transferred in the late eighties, and he has not been seen since.
According to debkafile ‘s experts, when the Israeli army pulled back from South Lebanon to the international frontier last May, the Iranian President named Mughniyeh as his representative in and coordinator of a new combined operations command room established at Naamne, 15 miles south of Beirut, by four violently anti-peace terrorist groups, the Lebanese Hizballah, the Palestinian Islamic Hamas and Jihad Islami, and Ahmad Jibril’s Marxist Palestinian Popular Front – General Command. The mechanism was set up primarily to keep terrorist violence alive against Israeli military targets and civilian deep inside Israel after its troop withdrawal from Lebanon.
In the months leading up to the Lebanese general election, the Hizballah preferred to accentuate its political role in governing Lebanon and let its terrorist and combat functions be executed by outside bodies. That was why the Iranian president set up the combined command. Mughniyeh was chosen to run it because of the hostage-taking methods he fathered in the eighties for terrorizing the West, especially America.
According to debkafile‘s experts, Mughniyeh was behind the most notorious abductions of Westerners in Beirut in those years. For six years, from 1982 to 1988. he held group captive in the cellars of mosques in South Beirut and later in villages around Baalbek in East Lebanon, among them the AP correspondent Terry Adams, the British Anglican envoy Terry Waite and Thomas Sutherland, Dean of the American University of Beirut. It was he who planned and carried out the kidnapping of the two senior CIA officers in Lebanon, William Buckley and William Higgins, whom he turned over to the Iranians who murdered them. For eight long years, the finest of the Western world’s intelligence agencies, the CIA, the British MI6, the US anti-narcotics DEA, the French SDECE, Israel Army Intelligence-Aman and the Mossad, searched high and low for the master terrorist and his captives – to no avail. The only agency with a general geographical picture of those hideouts was Israeli Army Intelligence, but even that body had no specific knowledge. After the hostage crisis had passed, Western law and order agencies continued to hunt the super-hijacker, but were never able to lay hands on him.
Imad Mughniyeh owes his incredible success to four factors: 1. His hostage-taking operations were never carried out for personal gain or ransom, only as a politically loaded weapon of warfare for backing up Ayatollah Khomeini’s drive to humiliate the United States more than it has ever been before. So disturbingly did those outrages affect America’s political psyche, that Khomeini was able to play Mughniyeh’s hostage card for two years, 1985-1987, to force the Americans, with Israel’s help, to clandestinely sell his revolutionary regime illegal arms. The affair surfaced as the Irangate scandal and almost brought down the Reagan administration. 2. Imad Mughniyeh’s origin has stood him in good stead. Even those who have heard of him know that Mughniyeh is no Lebanese but of Palestinian stock from Galilee, whose family is untypically not Sunni Moslem but Shiite. In fact, his grandfather was a Shiah mullah. Some time in the forties, the family moved to the Lebanese Shiite village of Tair Debbah near Tyre. The combination of Palestinian nationalism and Shiite extremism gave him a foot in both Palestinian and Lebanese Shiite intelligence and security organizations in Lebanon. A point worth mentioning here is that Mughniyeh detests Yasser Arafat after working with him up until 1980. 3. Mughneyeh has a natural aptitude for dreaming up the single intelligence stroke that hits a complex political situation like a thunderbolt. The abduction of the three Israeli soldiers on Mount Dov bears his signature in that it instantly and dramatically broadened the Israel-Palestinian confrontation to Israel’s two northern frontiers and beyond.4. No one excepting some of his brothers has ever penetrated the hard core of the Mughniyeh group, no one knows where he is or even the identity he is using at any given moment. A man of many faces, he is thought to constantly alter his appearance by using disguises or even surgery. His devotion to his family is solid. In April 1988, he staged the hijack of a Kuwaiti Airlines plane to exact the release of his kinsman (cousin or brother-in-law), Mustafa Fouad Saad, who was under sentenc of death for terrorist activities in Kuwait. The Kuwaiti authorities gave in to his demand.
Finding Mughniyeh’s three Israeli victims therefore is a daunting challenge. Even if German intelligence agents are in contact with the Hizballah leader, Sheikh Nasrallah, over a prisoner exchange, as reported, this may not lead to the captured soldiers’s release. The Hizballah leader is playing the world stage to the hilt, laying down one outrageous demand after another, with Israel playing its part by holding him responsible for the abductions. The only trouble is that the Hizballah most probably does not have the missing men or even known where they are hidden. At best, he can apply to Iranian representatives in Lebanon and Tehran for a scrap of information, so that he can carry on capitalizing on the affair. Whether or not Nasrallah gets that scrap depends on Mughaniyeh’s plans for his Israeli captives.
Syrian intelligence in Lebanon is in the same boat as Nasrallah. Mughaniyeh is keeping them all guessing, waiting fearfully his next move. The man he hates, Yasser Arafat, for instance, will not dare to join President Clinton and Prime Minister Barak at a summit in Sharm-e-Sheikh to talk about ending the crisis before he knows what Mughniyeh is up to. The mystery-man is perfectly capable of doing something that will elicit a massive Israeli reprisal in Lebanon while the summit is in progress, making it impossible for the Palestinian leader to sit down with the Israelis.
The only certainty that Israel can count on is that the abductions are the first ploy in a new overall anti-Israel rejectionist strategy being spun by the combined anti-peace apparatus in Lebanon.

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