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The Phantom - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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For twenty five years this character remained hidden and transformed into a legend surrounded by many secrets.

His name did not invoke a particular image or sound.

Even his [physical] features were unknown to many people and the one image of him was not authenticated so there was hardly any information on his identity.

The strength of this man, Imad Mughniyeh, lied in his absence; this is what his assassination revealed.

Along with the breaking news that was presented by the Hezbollah-affiliated television channel al Manar last Wednesday came thunder that is still roaring in Lebanon and the entire world; at present, many analysts are aiming to unravel the numerous mysteries that surround this story.

The news was not simply about the assassination of some Hezbollah official; rather it reflected the fall of the party’s most important security figure that was known as “the phantom,” “the fox,” and, as we have come to learn, “Hajj Radwan”.

As a result of the magnitude of this news item, it was hard to believe at the beginning and the efforts exerted by the Hezbollah television news presenter in delivering the breaking news in a dramatic way was clear evidence of the status of the assassinated figure and his role. Hezbollah media has never dealt with the assassination of a leader with such honour and emotion.

In most cases, the stories that were woven about Imad Mughniyeh suggested that he was responsible for several elaborate terrorist operations the world over. Some people believed that Mughniyeh was a fictional character and that there was much exaggeration in the stories about him. However what appeared in the media, especially the media of Hezbollah and the like, clarified that this man’s position clearly surpassed what was said about him over the past 25 years during which he travelled between Lebanon, Syria and Iran without any news being leaked about him until after his assassination took place in Damascus two weeks ago.

The media had earnestly sought to uncover the image of Imad Mughniyeh, conduct an interview with him or even just obtain some information about him. The media sought to attain information from his supposed acquaintances; however they appeared to be rare. It seemed that most information about Mughniyeh’s activities regarding security operations was attained from Western and Israeli intelligence websites. When any journalist was asked about the reasons behind the lack of Lebanese media reports on Mughniyeh, the answer would refer back to the dangers behind this and the impossibility of its completion.

What is notable is that the hours and days that followed Mughniyeh’s assassination demonstrated that Hezbollah, the image of which over the past few years has been confined to its secretary general Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, is in fact more complicated and dangerous than it appears to be.

The assassination of Imad Mughniyeh clarified that there is more to Hezbollah than just Nasrallah and that the man, Imad Mughniyeh, really did exist and that he played a significant role in a number of important military and political events.

This man was not hiding in the same way that Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri are hiding. It is true that they have issued several statements and conducted interviews but it is evident that Mughniyeh’s shrewdness surpassed them whereby the media did not form any kind of appeal for him; he preferred to remain in the shadows rather than appear in the limelight.

This is what probably helped him stay safe during 25 years of being targeted.

Imad Mughniyeh has been assassinated. Will the media, which was never able to meet the man, now be able to unfold the secrets of his assassination?

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled is a prominent and well-respected TV journalist in the Arab world thanks to her phenomenal show Bil Ayn Al-Mojarada (By The Naked Eye), a series of documentaries on controversial areas and topics which airs on Lebanon's leading local and satelite channel, Future Television. Diana also is a veteran war correspondent, having covered both the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan, as well as the Israeli "Grapes of Wrath" massacre in southern Lebanon. Ms. Moukalled has gained worldwide recognition and was named one of the most influential women in a special feature that ran in Time Magazine in 2004.

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