It wasn’t the staring eyes, nor the way he picked up an apple in front of me and cut it open with such careful deliberation. It was the vice-like handshake, the steely grip that made my fingers hurt. “Imad Mougnieh,” he said, as if to show he wasn’t on the run, wasn’t afraid to use his real name.
… I had gone to see Mougnieh [in Beirut] to plead for the release of my close friend and colleague Terry Anderson, the Beirut bureau chief of the Associated Press, kidnapped in 1985 and subsequently held for almost seven years in sealed rooms and underground dungeons.
Mougnieh tried to reassure me. “Believe me, Mr Robert, we treat him better even than you treat yourself.” I shuddered. I didn’t believe that. I had heard this language before.
… Mougnieh, Lebanese by birth, was a man of frightening self-confidence, of absolute self-belief, something he shared with Osama bin Laden and – let us speak frankly about this – with President George W Bush.
Fisk – a journalist with intimate knowledge of Middle East terrorists, many of whom he has met – also reveals that Mughniyeh was one of the gunmen on board the hijacking of TWA flight 847 from Athens to Rome in June 1985. (Mughniyeh was demanding the release of 17 Islamic Jihad members imprisoned in Kuwait.)
Meanwhile, there is no doubt that whoever killed Mughniyeh (whether it was Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency or someone else), this is a major success. Former CIA operative Robert Baer, who hunted Mughniyeh for years, said:
“Mughniyeh is probably the most intelligent, most capable operative we’ve ever run across. He enters by one door, exits by another, changes his cars daily, never makes appointments on a telephone, never is predictable… He only uses people that are related to him that he can trust. He is the master terrorist, the grail we have been after since 1983.”