Yes, he said, he was a “member of Islamic Jihad” - I knew very well he was the leader of the organisation, that he had arranged the kidnapping of so many Western hostages in Beirut - but he was in Tehran, in the upper floor of a luxury hotel. Safe from his enemies - but then again, that’s probably what he thought when he climbed into his car in Damascus on Tuesday night.
Mougnieh was an enemy of America, an enemy of Israel; the latter’s denial of responsibility for the car bomb that killed him will be seen by his supporters as a mere linguistic sleight of hand, and he knew the risks. His brother was assassinated in Beirut by a bomb meant for him and his own loathing for the CIA station chief in Beirut, done to death by Islamic Jihad after his 1984 abduction, was proof enough of Mougnieh’s war with the United States.
I had gone to see Mougnieh 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.
Thus to the bomb attack in Damascus, not far from an Iranian school, close to a local Syrian intelligence office, explosives under Mougnieh’s own car and a body dragged from the vehicle by policemen.