A U.S. Central Intelligence Agency seal on the floor of the CIA's original headquarters building in Langley, Va. Five former intelligence officials recently confirmed U.S. involvement in a high-profile assassination of a Hezbollah commander in 2008. Photo by GifTagger/CC/Wikimedia Commons
LANGLEY, Va., Feb. 1 (UPI) -- The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency worked with Israel's foreign intelligence service, Mossad, to assassinate a Hezbollah commander with a car bomb in 2008, according to former U.S. intelligence officials.
Five such former officials, speaking to The Washington Post on condition of anonymity, confirmed U.S. involvement in the operation, which targeted Imad Mughniyeh, Hezbollah's international operations chief.
Agents followed Mughniyeh's movement for months before killing him in Damascus on February 12, 2008.
CIA spotters on the ground in Syria monitored Mughniyeh on the night of his death. A U.S.-built bomb was installed in the spare tire of his SUV, and when he entered the vehicle following dinner and a solitary walk, Mossad agents remotely detonated the device from Tel Aviv.
Hezbollah blamed the assassination on Israel -- and so did Lebanese media, though Israel denied any involvement, and the U.S. remained silent on the matter.
Since the U.S. was not at war in Syria, legal scholars have questioned the legality of such an action, also noting that the use of a car bomb violates international laws of war.
The CIA and Mossad first began discussing ways to kill Mughniyeh in 2002, the officials said, but efforts were ramped up following the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. The Bush administration had begun targeting Hezbollah in 2006 due to the Lebanese militant group supporting Shia militias attacking U.S. troops in Iraq. A presidential finding at the time authorized the operation against Mughniyeh.
Mughniyeh had been implicated in several terrorist attacks, including the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, which killed 63 people. He was placed on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list with a $5 million bounty due to his involvement in the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847, and he was suspected of involvement in the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, as well as the 1984 kidnapping, torture and killing of CIA's station chief in Lebanon, William F. Buckley.
The CIA declined official comment, according to The Post.