Israeli government mum on "arch-terrorist" Mugniyah

Israel Materials 13 February 2008 16:14 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Official Israel stayed mum Wednesday on the assassination of top Hezbollah leader Imad Mugniyah, but observers and experts called him an "arch-terrorist" of the calibre of Osama bin Laden who had been wanted by Israeli, US and other intelligence organizations for many years.

"There will be no Israeli response on any level," Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Arieh Mekel said, declining to comment. "Israel is not commenting," Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokesman Mark Regev, said.

But former Mossad head Danny Yatom said: "This will be a very hard blow not only to the Hezbollah, but also to their self-confidence and because of the fact that who ever can get to Imad Mugniyah, can in fact get to anyone of Hezbollah's leaders, including those who are more immune."

"It will take some time before someone can reach the dimensions of the ability and experience which Mugniyah garnered during many years," Labour legislator Yatom told Israel Radio.

He said Mugniyah "counted among the most wanted terrorists, like Osama bin Laden, and I am not exaggerating, Aiman al-Zawahiri and others."

"The hunt after him by many intelligence organizations went on for many years and crossed borders," he added.

Boaz Ganor, the head of Israel's Terrorism Research Institute at the Herzliyya Interdisciplinary Centre, north of Tel Aviv, spoke of "one of the biggest organizational successes of any intelligence organization in the last years."

Mugniyah was "very, very alert" and knew he was wanted by intelligence organizations in thae US, Israel and other nations in Asia, the Arab world and the West where he had carried out attacks, he said.

"We know that the FBI put a prize of 5 million dollars on his head," he said, adding the US considered him as dangerous if not more as Osama bin Laden.

"Bin Laden is a better know figure but he is certainly, certainly much less skilled and in many ways much less dangerous than Mugniyah," Dr. Ganor said.

Mugniyah had been implicated in the 1983 bombings of the US embassy and peacekeeping forces in Beirut, the 1992 bombings of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires and the kidnapping of dozens of foreigners in Lebanon in the 1980s.