In wake of Predator success, U.S. weighs assassination options
Friday, November 29, 2002
The United States is quietly examining the feasibility of assassinating Hizbullah leaders linked to the deaths of U.S. soldiers and civilians in the 1980s.
The assassination option was bolstered following the success of a U.S. mission that tracked and killed six Al Qaida operatives in Yemen last month.
So far, Lebanon and Syria have refused to cooperate in efforts to capture Hizbullah members responsible for the killing of hundreds of Americans in the early 1980s, Middle East Newsline reported. The Iranian-backed group blew up the U.S. Marine Corps barracks and the embassy in Beirut in 1982 and 1983 during the U.S. peacekeeping mission in Lebanon.
Celebrate The Holidays By Working From Home: Special Offer
In Yemen, the United States used a Predator unmanned air vehicle to follow a car with the Al Qaida members. The Predator then launched a Hellfire anti-tank missile to destroy the car.
U.S. officials said the issue is being discussed by the intelligence and law enforcement communities after an assessement that Hizbullah has been cooperating with Al Qaida to launch attacks on civilian installations in Africa and the Middle East.
The prospect of assassinating Hizbullah leaders was raised publicly during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week. Such a move was supported by committee chairman Sen. Arlen Specter, who was questioning U.S. Attorney Robert Conrad, who helped break up a Hizbullah ring in North Carolina last year.
"The United States is moving against Al Qaida key people," Specter told Conrad. "You saw what happened in Yemen not too long ago with military action taken against Al Qaida key figures. Would you recommend that for Hizbullah, key figures outside the United States?"
"Yes, sir," Conrad replied. "And I hope that extradition efforts and other rendering efforts might someday be fruitful here.
At that point, Specter said the prospect of the United States obtaining the extradition of Hizbullah suspects from Lebanon appears dim. Then he added, "But it's possible to do other things in Lebanon."
Specter did not elaborate.
Officials said any such move would take place in the next stage of the war against terrorism. They said any assassination must be preceded by an intensive monitoring effort of Hizbullah leaders and operatives in Lebanon.
SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM