- The Washington Times - Monday, October 15, 2001

Right before demanding once again that the Taliban "cough up" Osama bin Laden, President Bush last Wednesday released a new list of America's 22 Most Wanted Terrorists. In addition to bin Laden, Mr. Bush's list includes suspects in such crimes as the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847; the February 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center; the October 1993 slayings of U.S. soldiers in Mogadishu, Somalia; an unsuccessful 1995 plot to bomb airliners in the Far East; and the June 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, an attack in which 19 U.S. Air Force personnel were killed.

Aside from bin Laden, perhaps the most vicious criminal listed by the administration is his terrorism teacher Imad Mugniyeh, a Lebanese who has served as Hezbollah's security boss. Before September 11, Mugniyeh was "the man who killed more Americans than any other terrorist in the world, and we've ignored him," said Larry Johnson, a former State Department counterintelligence officer. As Mr. Johnson and CBS correspondent Bob Simon pointed out on "60 Minutes II" last week, Mugniyeh and his operatives bombed the American embassy in Beirut in April 1983, killing 63 people. Six months later, Mugniyeh ordered the suicide bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut; a total of 241 Americans died in the attack at the time, the bloodiest terrorist strike ever carried out against Americans. In 1984, he bombed the annex to the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon, killing another 14 Americans. In June 1985, Mugniyeh's thugs staged the hijacking of TWA Flight 847. One of their hostages, U.S. Navy SEAL Robert Stethem, was tortured and killed. His body was dumped on an airport tarmac. American officials believe Mugniyeh engineered the kidnappings of Western hostages in Lebanon during the 1980s. One of those abducted was Beirut CIA station chief William Buckley, who was tortured and murdered by Mugniyeh's operatives.

Mugniyeh whose terrorist "credits" are also believed to include the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Argentina and the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires (well over 100 people died in the two attacks) is, in a very real sense, bin Laden's terrorist teacher. Ali Mohammed, a former bin Laden aide who plead guilty to participating in the 1998 Africa embassy bombings, confessed that he personally arranged meetings between Mugniyeh, the mentor, and bin Laden (his pupil), during which the latter learned the tools of the terrorist trade.

It is simply disgraceful that Mugniyeh has never been brought to justice. In 1985, former CIA counterterrorism specialist Dewey Claridge said, he asked France to put Mugniyeh who had been spotted in Paris under surveillance. But the French stopped the operation, apparently worried that it could jeopardize negotiations with Iran to free French hostages in Lebanon. Ten years later, Saudi Arabia refused an FBI request to stop a plane carrying Mugniyeh back to Beirut.

Today, Mugniyeh (who is also believed to have had a role in the suicide attack on the USS Cole last October) is most likely hiding in Syrian-occupied Lebanon or in Iran, under the protection of the Revolutionary Guards. Mr. Bush should put Tehran and Damascus on notice: Cough up Mugniyeh now, or get ready to pay a very heavy price.

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