The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) persuaded Newsweek to hold a story on the assassination of senior Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh for a year, the magazine reports.
Mughniyeh was assassinated in a joint US-Israeli car-bomb operation in February, 2008, according to two independently-sourced stories by The Washington Post and Newsweek.
The details of how the US and Israeli intelligence agencies assassinated Mughniyeh remains a deeply held secret at the CIA.
However, the CIA made a strong case to Newsweek against publishing the controversial story, and the magazine “honored” that request for a year before finding itself in a competitive pressure with The Washington Post.
“In the geopolitical context at that moment, the CIA made a very persuasive case,” Newsweek’s editor-in-chief Jim Impoco said in an interview with POLITICO.
The US spy agency had also persuaded the Post for two weeks to hold the story, but the newspaper published its version of Mughniyeh’s assassination on January 30 for fears that it would be scooped on a story it was so eager to publish.
Newsweek soon followed suit and published the story on Friday. Impoco said the magazine had no intention of publishing the story before learning that the Post was about to break the news of the CIA’s involvement.
In 2008, CIA “spotters” followed Imad Mughniyeh, who had escaped the CIA’s previous attempts at capturing him, in the Syrian capital, Damascus, after he had left a restaurant. The bomb that killed the senior Hezbollah figure was detonated remotely by Israel’s Mossad based on information provided by the CIA, according to a former intelligence official.
“The authority to kill Mughniyah required a presidential finding by President George W. Bush. The attorney general, the director of national intelligence, the national security adviser and the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department all signed off on the operation, one former intelligence official said,” according to the Post’s report.
Mughniyeh’s 25-year-old son, Jihad, was also killed in Syria’s Golan Heights by an Israeli airstrike on January 18.
Jihad and five more Hezbollah fighters were killed, after an Israeli helicopter fired two missiles at their vehicle in the Syrian city of Quneitra.
Israel has carried out numerous airstrikes in Syria over the past couple of years. The Syrian army has repeatedly seized huge quantities of Israeli-made weapons and advanced military equipment from the foreign-backed militants operating CIA assassinated Hezbollah commander, forced Newsweek to hold story inside the country.