Sunday, November 02, 2008

Hizbullah chooses successor for Mugniyah

Kuwaiti newspaper reports Mustafa Shehada to be appointed Shiite organization's new operations officer following death of legendary Mugniyah, but some believe eliminating 'unnecessary' position would render assassination of top commanders irrelevant to stability of military branch
Roee Nahmias

Hizbullah's leadership is leaning towards appointing a successor to its late operations officer, Imad Mugniyah, who was assassinated last February, Kuwaiti daily 'al-Rai' reported on Saturday The paper named Mustafa Shehada as the heir to the notorious Mugniyah, who was assassinated by a car bomb in a Damascus neighborhood last February.

According to the report, the organization's leadership is keen on Shehada's candidacy for a number of reasons – he is one of the founding members of the Shiite group, has extensive military experience and is well-trusted by Hizbullah brass.

Perhaps most importantly, however, is the fact that as a backstage player, he has had limited media exposure.

But the report also quotes a number of Hizbullah officials who say that through the years the organization as managed to establish a firm command over its military branch, and no longer needs a point-man like Mugniyah.

According to the sources, experience has shown that this way the assassination of a top commander would have limited impact on the military branch.

Mugniyah, who had been in hiding for years prior to his death at the age of 45, was believed to have

masterminded a string of attacks in the 1980s and 1990s that killed hundreds of Americans and targeted US, Israeli and Jewish interests in Lebanon and elsewhere.

He was also on an FBI wanted list with a $25 million bounty on his head, equal to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin-Laden

The United States considered Mugniyah to be the man behind the bombing at the American embassy in Beirut and the attack against the US Marines' headquarters in Lebanon in 1983, which killed over 200 Americans.

Mugniyah was indicted in the US for the 1985 hijacking of a TWA airliner.

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