Iran, Syria Probe Mughniyeh Killing
Albert Aji – Associated Press February 15, 2008
Syria and Iran will conduct a joint investigation into the car bombing that killed Imad Mughniyeh, a commander of their Lebanese ally Hezbollah, Iran's state news agency reported Friday.
Mughniyeh, the suspected mastermind of 1980s attacks on the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks in Lebanon that killed hundreds of Americans, died Tuesday night in the Syrian capital Damascus.
Iran and Hezbollah blamed Israel but the Israelis denied involvement. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah vowed in a eulogy to the slain militant on Thursday that his Shiite guerrilla group would retaliate against Israeli targets anywhere in the world.
An Iranian television station aired Friday what it said was mobile phone video footage of the blast that killed Mughniyeh. The grainy, dark images appeared to have been taken moments after his car blew up.
They show a vehicle engulfed in flames on a street at night and several people, apparently bystanders, running by. It was not possible to see whether anyone was in the vehicle in the footage taken from a distance and lasting a few seconds.
The video was shown on Iran's state-run Arabic channel, Al-Alam. The station did not say how it obtained the footage.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki met in Damascus Friday with Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa to discuss the killing.
"We discussed the terrorist crime that led to the martyrdom of one of the most senior commanders in the Lebanese Islamic Resistance, martyr Imad Mughniyeh," Mottaki told reporters after the meeting.
In Tehran, Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Reza Sheik Attar said that during Mottaki's visit to Damascus, which began Thursday, Iran and Syria agreed to form a joint investigation team to "look into the root causes and dimensions of the assassination to identify the perpetrators of this dirty crime," the state IRNA news agency reported.
Syria has not said who it believes was behind the blast. On Thursday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said he expected the perpetrators to be identified soon.
Mughniyeh was one of the most elusive and notorious Hezbollah commanders, believed to have masterminded suicide bombings in Lebanon during the 1974-1990 civil war that killed hundreds of Americans and French, as well as hostage takings of Westerners and 1985 hijacking of a TWA airliner in which a U.S. Navy diver was killed.
In the 1990s, he went into hiding, and Western and Israeli intelligence accuse him of planning suicide bombings against the Israeli Embassy and a Jewish cultural center in Argentina that killed more than 100 people. Over the past 15 years, he is believed to have moved in secret between Lebanon, Iran and Syria.
Mottaki attended Mughniyeh's funeral in Beirut on Thursday and met later in the day with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus to discuss the killing. On Friday, he held talks with the Damascus-based leaders of the Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
In Iran, powerful politician Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani condemned the United States and Israel for welcoming Mughniyeh's killing.
"The countries that hoisted the banner of the international campaign against terrorism are today rejoicing over this terrorist act that led to the martyrdom of this great personality," said Rafsanjani, a former president who now heads the Expediency Council, a powerful clerical body.
"They lost the remainder of their blotted reputation after this last state-sponsored assassination, since they expressed happiness over a terrorist act," he told worshippers in a Friday prayer sermon at Tehran University, IRNA reported.
During Friday prayers in Baghdad, worshippers were read a statement issued Thursday by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr saying Mughniyeh "became a martyr of world Islamic resistance." Al-Sadr declared a three-day mourning period for Mughniyeh.
Last updated 17/02/2008