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Cablegate: Hizballah's Imad Mugniyah Killed by Car Bomb In

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PP RUEHAG RUEHROV
DE RUEHDM #0107 0441447
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 131447Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4627
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEPGBA/CDR USEUCOM INTEL VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY

S E C R E T DAMASCUS 000107

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/12/2018
TAGS: PGOV PTER SY LE
SUBJECT: HIZBALLAH'S IMAD MUGNIYAH KILLED BY CAR BOMB IN
DAMASCUS

Classified By: CDA Michael Corbin, reasons 1.5 b and d.

1. (SBU) Syria's tightly controlled press remained silent
on reports of Imad Mugniyah's death in a car bomb that
exploded near Syrian Military Intelligence (SMI) headquarters
in the neighborhood of Kafr Sousa at approximately 10:00 pm
local February 12. According to contacts who were on the
scene, SMI secured and cleared the area and kept other police
services away. Tow trucks removed several vehicles within 45
minutes after the explosion which jarred surrounding
buildings and could be felt at the American Ambassador's
residence three miles away. Syrian officials reported the
blast had been the result of a butane gas leak and that one
unidentified person (later two) had been killed.

2. (C) Media and other contacts reported mid-morning
February 13 that unknown assailants had launched a car bomb
attack against notorious Hizballah military operative Imad
Mugniyah. The story broke simultaneously on wire services
and Arab satellite television stations al Jazeera, al
Arabyia, and al Manar. Western press was also reporting that
the second victim was Hizballah MP al Hajj Hussein, although
Hizballah denied this. As of COB local, Syrian authorities
had yet to provide any further comment on the incident. (A
Fox News affiliate told us MFA officials seemed "shocked" by
reports of Mugniyah's death but offered no comment.)

3. (C) The most frequent theory suggested by media and
diplomatic contacts was that Israel conducted the attack to
embarrass Syria on the eve of a previously scheduled visit by
Iranian FM Manuchehr Mottaki. Going to the other extreme,
others were unwilling to rule out that Hizballah itself had
conducted the assassination to neutralize Mugniyah's
challenge to Hizballah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah.
One contact even suggested that Syria could have undertaken
the operation as a sign of its desire to engage Israel and
the West.

4. (S) Saudi XXXXXXXXXXXX (protect)
told us Mugniyah's presence in Damascus might have been
related to a possible February 13 meeting in Damascus among
Lebanese March 8 MPs with SARG officials. He also noted that
SMI Director Assaf Shawkat's offices were close to where the
explosion occurred, and Mugniyah could have been going to or
coming from the meeting. British and Egyptian Embassy
sources suggested Iranian FM Mottaki planned to meet with
Hizballah and March 8 representatives during his February
13-14 visit to Damascus as a counter to March 14's planned
public demonstration to mark the third anniversary of the
February 14 assassination of former Lebanese PM Rafiq Hariri.


5. (C) Comment: This apparent targeted assassination of one
of Hizballah's most notorious operatives coincides with a
busy week of official visits meant to refute suggestions that
Syria's Lebanon policy is resulting in a new period of
Western and Arab diplomatic isolation. Syria's ongoing
silence regarding the attack is a characteristic regime
response, most recently observed (and still in effect) after
Israel's September 6 air strike near Deir az-Zur. This
silence likely reflects a deep sense of regime embarrassment
from the acknowledged assassination of a wanted-terrorist
whose presence in Syria it denied for years. The event also
impacts Syrian-Iranian-Hizballah cooperation on the eve of FM
Mottaki's visit likely meant to bolster Syria's position in
the face of escalating March 14 rhetoric and growing Western
impatience with Syria's Lebanon policy.
CORBIN

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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