Merchant of Death
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Blood from Stones

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The Importance of Imad Mughniyeh
The assassination of top Shite militant Imad Mughniyeh is important for many reasons, not the least of which was his long-standing ties to Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda network and his crucial role as a link between the Iranian special forces and Hezbollah.

It is also interesting to note that Hezbollah, where Mughniyeh was a top strategist for many years, claimed him as their own immediately upon his death, despite denying responsibility in several of the actions for which he is most famous.

As Rohan Gunaratna wrote in his seminal book Inside al Qaeda, it was Mughniyeh's pioneering use of suicide truck bombs used in Lebanon in 1983 to bomb the Marine barracks and inflict mass casualties, was the model Osama bin Laden most wanted to emulate.

"It was Mughniyeh who inspired Osama to develop coordinated, simultaneous attacks as a regular modus operandi, and this has been the hallmark of most subsequent al Qaeda operations, including 9/11 and the East Africa bombings...," Gunaratna wrote. "Mughniyeh, who was especially close to the Iranians, helped al Qaeda develop its agent-handling system, having specialized in conducting long range operations."

According to Gunaratna and the court testimony of Jamal al Fadl and others, Mugniyah and bin Laden met numerous times in Sudan, when bin Laden and al Qaeda were based there under the protection of the Muslim Brotherhood-led government.

In addition, Mugniyah authorized the visit of an al Qaeda delegation to Lebanon for training, and help al Qaeda acquire explosives from Iran that were used in the 1998 East African embassy bombings.

This period of close Hezbollah-al Qaeda cooperation appears to have ended in the late 1990s, although Iran's well-documented protection of senior al Qaeda leaders after the 9/11 attacks shows that all ties were not severed. Mughniyeh, who operated both for Hezbollah and more directly for Iran's special forces, most likely brokered that cooperation.

The cause of the cooling of relations is not clear. The flirtation with a pan-Islamist movement that crossed the Sunni-Shite divide, was never fully realized.

But what is clear is that al Qaeda owes a great deal to the help, vision and training of Mungniyah. The use of suicide bombers in vehicles (cars, trucks, aircraft) was a revolutionary step in the _jihadist_ terms of warfare in the modern age.

In addition to these and other well-documented activities, Mugniyah has been, for more than a decade, one of the chief Hezbollah overseers of that group's involvement in the "blood diamond" trade in West and Central Africa.

He was a visitor to Ivory Coast, long an R&R destination for Hezbollah leaders, and may have helped al Qaeda establish it presence in the diamond trade centered in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

So, Mughniyeh may be gone, but we are seeing his legacy daily in Iraq, Afghanistan and other _jihadist_ struggles. He died violently as he lived violently. So do many others because of his work.
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