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SYRIA: Shocker from Iran about militant's death

April 9, 2008 | 10:27 am

A stunning report carried by pro-government Iranian media accuses Saudi Arabia of complicity in the February assassination of the militant Imad Mughniyah, the shadowy Lebanese commander with ties to Syria and Iran. 

The report cites unnamed sources close to the investigation and could not be confirmed. At the very least it  hints at ongoing tension between Damascus and Tehran over the course of the probe into the  legendary Hezbollah commander's fiery death.

Mughniyeh The report was first published Tuesday by the Persian-language section of the Fars News Agency and then carried today on the front page of  the conservative newspaper Kayhan, which is close to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Iran's top authority on all matters.

On the off chance you read Farsi, the links are here and here. The report has been translated by the Italian AKI news agency, as well.

Mughniyah was a high-ranking Hezbollah commander said to be in charge of the group's international operations. He was killed in a Feb. 12 car bombing attack in a highly secure section of Damascus.

The source quoted in the report told Fars that the Syrians had discovered a network connected to Israeli intelligence and Saudi Arabian Prince Bandar bin Sultan as well as a Saudi intelligence official in Damascus as partly behind the death. The source alleged that the Syrians had already arrested a Saudi official and were about to release their long-delayed report about the killing implicating the Saudis but were swayed by Kuwait to hold off.

Both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait urged their citizens to leave Lebanon after Mughniyah's slaying.

Here are other allegations in the report:

  • Israeli intelligence officials monitored Mughniyah's comings and goings for a year before the assassination.
  • Conspirators included Jordanians, Syrians and Palestinians who, along with their families, had rented or bought housing near Mughniyah's residence in the Kafar Sosa district of Damascus.
  • The Saudi official overseeing the operation fled home after the assassination but was lured back by a woman with whom he was having an affair.

Take 'em all with a grain of salt.

Publication of the report by  pro-government outlets suggests an ongoing rift between Syria and Iran over Mughniyah's death. It could also stir up sectarian troubles in Lebanon, where Shiite Hezbollah is at odds with the Saudi-backed Sunni-led government.

Borzou Daragahi in Beirut

Photo: The front page of today's Kayhan in Tehran featured a photograph of Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan conferring with President Bush above an article alleging Saudi complicity in the assassination of Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyah.