CIA helped Israel kill top Hezbollah operative

The CIA helped Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service, kill a senior Hezbollah figure in Syria in 2008, according to a report Friday from the Washington Post.

Imad Mughniyah was killed by a car bomb in Damascus. Israeli agents in Tel Aviv remotely detonated the device which was hidden in the spare tire of a parked SUV. The operation was aided by a CIA team in Damascus which was tracking Mughniyah’s movements.

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“The way it was set up, the U.S. could object and call it off, but it could not execute,” a former American intelligence official told the Post.

The report also cites a former official who said that the U.S. helped Israel construct the bomb. Test explosions were conducted at a CIA facility in North Carolina.

Mughniyah was the chief of international operations for Hezbollah, a Shiite militant group based in Lebanon that the U.S. considers to be a terrorist organization.

He was on the FBI's most wanted terrorist list and suspected of involvement in the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in 1983 and the killing of William F. Buckley, the CIA station chief in Lebanon, in 1984, among other acts.

According to the Post, the attorney general, director of national intelligence, national security adviser and the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel all approved the decision to kill Mughniyah.

A former intelligence official said getting authority for the operation as a "rigorous and tedious" process.

“What we had to show was he was a continuing threat to Americans,” the official said.