Imad Mughniyah: CIA worked with Mossad to assassinate senior Hezbollah figure.

CIA Worked Closely With Mossad to Assassinate Senior Hezbollah Figure

CIA Worked Closely With Mossad to Assassinate Senior Hezbollah Figure

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Jan. 31 2015 12:30 PM

CIA Worked Closely With Mossad to Assassinate Senior Hezbollah Figure

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Lebanese Hezbollah militants pray at the grave of Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyah (portrait), who was killed in a car bombing in Damascus in 2008, during a ceremony commemorating the 3rd anniversary of his assassination on Feb. 13, 2011.

Photo by Anwar Amro/AFP/Getty Images

The CIA and Mossad worked together to plant a bomb in the spare tire of an SUV that killed Imad Mughniyah, Hezbollah’s international operations chief, in 2008. CIA officers looked on as Mughniyah left a restaurant and approached the parked SUV that contained the bomb. He was killed instantly. Even though it was Mossad that pulled the trigger, officers in Israel were constantly in contact with the CIA operatives who could call off the assassination at any point, reveals the Washington Post. Beyond that, the CIA helped build the bomb and repeatedly tested it to make sure it would work properly.  

Even though the Israeli involvement in Mughniyah’s death was already widely known, the Post scoop provides a rare glimpse into the close cooperation between the CIA and Mossad. And it also raises legal questions—particularly in the use of a car bomb. “It is a killing method used by terrorists and gangsters,” said Mary Ellen O’Connell, a professor of international law at the University of Notre Dame. “It violates one of the oldest battlefield rules.” Although there was little debate in the administration about the use of a car bomb, getting authorization for the killing required a “rigorous and tedious” process in which officials had to show “he was a continuing threat to Americans,” says one of the Post’s sources.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.