The latest headlines from Damascus talk of a car bomb explosion in the uptown neighborhood of Kafar Suseh. The explosion – as was discovered later today – was a successful assassination attempt at one of Hizbulla‘s top leaders Imad Mughniyeh.
Imad Mughniyeh, is considered to be No.2 in Hizbulla after Hassan Nasrallah. He is on the FBI's top wanted list, and is considered to be behind the 1983 Marines Barracks bombing in Beirut which claimed the lives of 241 marines.
Reactions came swiftly, with Wassim writing:
I heard smatterings this morning that the person who died in the car bombing in Damascus had been Imad Mughniyeh but it wasn't till I made a call to a friend that it was confirmed. He said “Imad Mughniyeh” as soon as he picked up the phone and my heart sunk. In a struggle where many talk and only a few “do”, the loss of even one is felt much more deeply. There will be a quick response. .
Razan, objected on describing him as a militant, saying he was a “fighter“:
My room was shaking the minute I heard that sound. I thought it was Israel, the neighbors thought it was a tank of gas, but only the dead knew what it was.
Update: no “militant” was killed, but a fighter was assassinated.
As to who might have done it, many theories arise. The most obvious accusation would be towards Israel and the US. Hizbulla was swift to point its finger towards the Mossad. Moreover, considering the timing of the assassination – being right before the March 14's Hariri anniversary commemorations, and during Iran's FM's visit to Damascus, and a day after Lebanese March 14 MP Walid Junblatt made his civil-war reminiscent comments about Hizbulla and Syria – many are wondering whether March 14 has a hand in it. Others are suggesting it might actually be a small part of a larger deal in the making between Washington and Damascus.
Joshua Landis‘ blog has an interesting and rapidly updated discussion in the comment section. Here are some of the comments:
Qifa Nabki, said:
I’ve spoken to people close to the opposition in Beirut, and many are also very worried (if not paranoid) that this may have been carried out by the Syrians.
They put it as follows: if it was the Americans, that’s ok because they’ve been after him for a long time. If it was the Israelis, that is very bad (because of all the reasons mentioned above). The worst scenario is that if Syria took him out, as part of a deal with the Americans. With a prize like Mughniya, it would have to be a pretty big carrot for Syria, like another major concession by M14, veto to the opposition, etc.
The Israelis definitively want vengeance and “targeted assassinations” are part of their M.O. Taking out Imad Mughniyah would give the Israeli leadership loads of bonus points with the Israeli public – he’s been one of the “demons” ever since the 1980s – and at the same time signal to the region “We can get anyone, anywhere.” If he wasn’t safe in Damascus, who IS safe & where?
Syria did it – this is surely nonsense. Not in this way, in their own capital. If they wanted to give him up they would hand him over in Lebanon, and then make a quiet complaint about his ‘kidnapping’ by whichever intelligence service they handed him to. And as Qifa said, it would only be the start of a bigger realignment.