많은 사람들은 최근 레바논 내 무장단체 헤즈볼라의 고위 지도자가 암살 된 것에 놀라움과 의구심을 나타내고 있습니다.  이마드 무그니예는 1980년대와 1990년대 발생한 경악할만한 테러 공격 중 일부에 간여한 혐의로 지명수배를 받아온 주요 테러 용의자입니다. 하지만 분석가들은 그가 정보계 외부에서는 잘 알려지지 않았고, 그 같은 이유로 지금까지 체포되지 않을 수 있었다고 지적하고 있습니다.

시리아의 수도 한복판에서 한밤 중에 폭탄이 폭발했습니다. 이동전화를 통해 촬영된 사건 동영상은 이마드 무그니예의 사망으로 이어진 자동차 폭발 사건이 발생한 다마스커스 거리를 보여주고 있습니다.

온라인 블로그인 ‘카운터테러리즘 블로그’의 편집자인 앤드류 코크란 씨는 무그니예가 많은 사람들을 살해했던 동일한 방식으로 종말을 맞은 것이라고 말했습니다.  

코크란 씨는 암살범이 누구이든지 간에 머리에 총탄을 쏘는 방법이나, 독약을 주입하는 방법 등등 원하는 살인 방식을 택했을 것이라고 말했습니다.  코크란 씨는 하지만 범인은 자동차 폭발을 선택했다며, 그것은 폭탄테러 거장에 딱 들어맞는 반증적인 종말이라고 말했습니다. 그는 또 범행이 시리아의 수도이자 헤즈볼라의 본거지인 다마스커스에서 일어난 것 역시 아주 반증적이라고 말했습니다.

이마드 무그니예는 1980년대 테러계의 초특급 거물이었습니다.

서방 세계 정보 기관들은 그가 1983년 베이루트 주재 미국 대사관과 미 해병대 막사 폭탄 테러, 1985년 TWA항공 847기 공중 납치,  1990년대 초 아르헨티나 내 한 유대인 지역센터와 이스라엘 대사관 폭탄 공격을 주모한 것으로 생각하고 있습니다.  지난 1985년 항공기 납치사건에서  미 해군 로버트 스테뎀이 살해되기도 했습니다.

코크란 씨는 오사마 빈 라덴이 무그니예로부터 영감을 받고 테러 전술을 배웠다고 말했습니다.

코크란 씨는 무그니예와 빈 라덴 간에 오랜 세월을 거슬러 올라가는 명확한 연계가 있다며, 단지 무그니예는 빈 라덴이나 알자와히리가 언론에 비치는 것과 그밖의 알카에다가 온라인을 통해 하는 활동 등을 피한 것이라고 말했습니다.   

그는 베이루트와 테헤란 그리고 다마스커스 사이를 자유롭게 이동할 수 있었습니다.

전문가들은 그러한 무그니예를 암살하고자 한 동기를 가진 적은 많은 있었다고 말합니다. 미국은 무그니예의 체포에 2천5백만 달러의 보상금을 내걸었습니다.

헤즈볼라의 지도자 셰이크 하산 나스랄라는 그의 암살에 대해 이스라엘을 비난 했습니다. 헤즈볼라에 수백만 달러의 무기와 자금을 공급해온 이란 역시 이스라엘을 비난하고 있습니다.

하지만 지난 2006년 헤즈볼라와 전쟁을 치른 이스라엘은 무그니예의 암살 사건에 개입을 전면 부인하고, 헤즈볼라의 공격 가능성에 대비해 경계태세를 강화하고 있습니다. 일부 전문가들은 무그니예가 지난 2006년 양측간 전쟁을 촉발시킨 이스라엘 병사 2명의 납치를 주모한 것으로 판단하고 있습니다.

셰이크 나스랄라는 무그니예를 자동차 폭발로 사망케한데 대해 이스라엘을 공격할 것이라고 다짐하고 있습니다. 

The assassination of a top operative for the Lebanon-based group Hezbollah was both a surprise and a puzzle for many people. Imad Mugniyeh was a wanted man for some of the most spectacular terrorist attacks of the 1980s and 1990s, but remained little known outside intelligence and counterterrorism circles. As VOA correspondent Gary Thomas reports, his low profile is what kept him alive this long.

Imad Mugniyeh was a superstar of the terrorism world in the 1980s.

Based in Beirut, he is believed by counterterrorism experts to be the chief planner of numerous attacks over the past quarter of a century, including the 1983 bombings of the U.S. embassy and the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut. He is credited with pioneering the widespread use of suicide bombers, which has since become the favored tactic of Islamic extremists.

But he was gradually eclipsed by a new generation of violent Islamic radicals led by a young Saudi named Osama bin Laden.

Andrew Cochran, editor of the Counterterrorism Blog website, says bin Laden drew both inspiration and terrorist tactical knowledge from Mugniyeh.

"Bin Laden definitely took inspiration, and told him so," he said. "And there definitely were ties between Mugniyeh and bin Laden and al-Qaida stretching back years. It's just that Mugniyeh did not do the kind of media that bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, and the rest of al-Qaida do online."

Counterterrorism analysts say Mugniyeh spent much of the time trying to stay out of sight. Although based in Lebanon, analysts say he took refuge in Iran for long periods, attempting to stay under the radar of the world's terrorist hunters, and he seemed to have become dormant. There were even reports that he had retired from active duty as Hezbollah evolved from a small terrorist organization into more of a political and military force.

But Douglas Farah, an author and counterterrorism consultant, does not think that Mugniyeh had retired.

"He was fairly young when he died," he said. "He was not an old man who needed to get out of the field. His operational thinking was still highly valued. And I would think that it would have been highly unlikely that he had simply gone into retirement."

Reva Bhalla, an analyst with the private intelligence firm Stratfor, says that just before his death, reports began surfacing that Mugniyeh was back in the terrorist game.

"We started getting these reports from some of our sources that he had become active again," Bhalla said. "And that really made us sit upright, and we're like 'wow' because Mugniyeh, this is the guy who is a real creative thinker. He really knows how to get all the tactical details down to pull off a really successful attack outside of the region especially."

As police often say, a murderer must have both motive and opportunity. Given Mugniyeh's past history, there is no shortage of suspects with a motive - the United States, France, Britain, and Israel.

But analysts say there are far fewer suspects with opportunity. He was killed in Syria, which is one of Hezbollah's sponsors and where security is supposed to be tight.

Hezbollah and its other sponsor, Iran, have blamed Israel. Israel has denied responsibility for Mugniyeh's death.

But Stratfor's Reva Bhalla says Israel is the most logical suspect because the bombing has the hallmarks of precision planning and extraordinary intelligence work.

"He was obsessed with operational security. He was very, very good at moving around," Bhalla said. "But once you start becoming operational again, once we started hearing these reports, the risk went up that he would be vulnerable to some kind of leak. And it looks like that's what was the case in this. This was a very brilliant attack the way it was pulled off. You had to have incredibly good intel [intelligence] to be waiting there, have the bomb set up, and pull it off that well."

Some analysts say the assassins also had a high sense of irony or a macabre sense of humor. Imad Mugniyeh was killed by a car bomb, a tactic that he himself had used so often in the past to deadly effect.