Before there was an Osama bin Laden, there was Mugniyah.
Imad Mughniyah is dead, killed in Damascus by a car bomb at the age of 45. Mughniyah was believed to have been Hezbollahs chief of military operations, and his assassination marks the first time a major figure in the movement has been killed since secretary-general Abbas Musawi in 1992an assassination which brought the current secretary-general, Hasan Nasrallah, to power.
For many, Mughniyah was a reviled figure, wanted by both Israel and the United States for his alleged role in numerous attacks on American and Israeli targetsincluding the truck-bombing of the U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut in 1983 and the attack on the Israeli embassy in Argentina in 1992. (Formally, the FBI most-wanted him for his role in the 1985 hijacking of an American airliner to Beirut and the murder of a U.S. Navy diver on board.) For researchers such as myself, Mughniyah was of great interest because he represented a constant figure in Hezbollah throughout its evolution from an Iranian-backed Lebanese militia in the 1980s to a nationalist insurgent group in the 1990s and finally to its current incarnation as the most powerful political party in Lebanonboth in terms of weapons and popular support.