The Lebanese Shiite Hizballah, itself a listed terrorist group, was forced Thursday, Feb. 13 to cancel its most solemn annual event in memory of fabled “special security chief” Imad Mughniyeh, over an inability to keep the event safe from terrorist attacks.
In the six years since Moughniyeh was assassinated in Damascus, Hizballah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah has traditionally eulogized these annual mass-attendance events.
No reason was offered for cancelling this year’s assembly. debkafile’s counter-terror sources report that Hizballah and its Shiite following in Lebanon live in fear of devastating suicide bombing attacks by al Qaeda and other Sunni extremists. Since last July, they have staged 10 attacks and claimed scores of lives in Beirut and other parts of Lebanon over Hizballah’s participation in the Syrian war. In a single attack last year, the bombing of the Iranian embassy, 25 people were killed.
Its Syrian expedition has left the Hizballah short of manpower for self-protection. This situation has become more acute since an intelligence tip was received disclosing that the terrorists were now gunning for Nasrallah and other top operatives. This has necessitated doubling up security on their persons.
A special counterterrorism command center has begun operating at the Iranian embassy in Beirut. Two of its members are Mustafa Badr al-Din, commander of Hizballah forces, and Wafiq Safa, head of its security apparatus.
This center was set up by a high-ranking Iranian intelligence delegation, which debkafile reported exclusively on Jan. 26, had arrived in Beirut to tackle the terrorist threats to their Lebanese proxy. It was composed of senior IRGC Al Qods Brigades operatives and high officials of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS).
The decision to cancel the Mughniyeh memorial assembly was taken by the new counterterrorism center at the Iranian embassy for four reasons:
1. Iranian undercover agents in Syria discovered that al Qaeda elements were plotting to hit the assembly for mass casualties.
2. This information was confirmed Wednesday, Feb. 12, by three women captured in the Lebanese Beqaa on their way to conduct suicide bombings at the Beirut event. Under interrogation, the captives revealed that several more female suicide bombers were heading for Shiite targets across Lebanon.
3. Hizballah is in the middle of a campaign to raise additional Shiite volunteers for the different Syrian warfronts (as we reported Feb. 10). A new wave of anti-Shiite terrorism in Lebanon would quickly derail this effort, especially in view of the hundreds of Hizballah fighters who have already laid down their lives in Syria. The organization is intent on concealing the real figure, but cannot hide all the funerals.
4. Its Iranian bosses understand that until their counter-terror defense mechanism is functioning effectively and curbing those attacks, Hizballah’s manpower resources cannot be stretched both for providing security at home and for augmenting its fighting personnel input for the Syrian war.