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Backgrounder: Profile: Imad Mugniyah

Council on Foreign Relations

Author: Elisabeth Smick

February 13, 2008

Editor's Note
Imad Mugniyah was killed in a car bombing (al-Jazeera) in Damascus on February 13, 2008. Hezbollah officials accused Israel of launching the attacks that killed Mugniyah, though the Israeli government denied involvement (Haaretz). This profile of Mugniyah was written in August 2006.

Introduction

Relatively little is known about Imad Fayez Mugniyah, considered one of the most influential members of Hezbollah's inner circle. He is thought to be the organization's chief international operator, a shadowy figure behind its leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, and he has been linked to nearly every major terrorist operation executed by Hezbollah over the last twenty-five years. Mugniyah was the most wanted terrorist in the world before Osama bin Laden came onto intelligence radar screens, and he remains a prime target of U.S. counterterrorism forces.

Who is Imad Fayez Mugniyah?

Experts say Mugniyah was born in southern Lebanon in 1962. He is believed to be the son of a prominent Shiite cleric, but few traces of his early life remain. "He erased himself," Robert Baer, an ex-CIA officer told the New Yorker in 2002. "There are no civil records in Lebanon with his name in them." Mugniyah is thought to have begun his career as a teenager during the Lebanese civil war. He was trained by Yasir Arafat's Fatah movement, and became a member of Arafat's personal security detail, Force 17. When the Palestinian Liberation Organization left Lebanon in 1982, Mugniyah joined Hezbollah, serving as a bodyguard for its spiritual adviser, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, and rising quickly through the ranks.

Mugniyah keeps an extremely low profile. He does not make appearances on Arabic-language television, and the only known photographs of him are ten to twenty years old. Some believe Mugniyah, whose nickname is "the Fox," has undergone plastic surgery to alter his appearance.


Read the rest of this article on the cfr.org website.


Copyright 2008 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.



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