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Monday, August 30, 2010

Story of a Mossad hit

On August 2, 2008, I quoted a Jordanian paper:
Well known sources informed Albawaba that General Mohammed Suleiman, an adviser to Syrian president Bashar al Assad, was assassinated on Friday. Suleiman also served as Syria's liaison officer to Lebanon's Hizbullah movement.

According to the sources, Suleiman was shot dead by a sniper in the Syrian port city of Tartous. They added the funeral service will be held on Sunday in Suleiman's home-town of Driekesh which is located less than 20 kilometers away from Tartous.

The sources told Albawaba the Syrian authorities have been making huge efforts to prevent the publication of the news regarding Suleiman's killing. It should be mentioned that on February 13, 2008 Imad Moughniyeh, the military commander of Hizbullah, was assassinated in Damascus.
I commented then:
Syria's formerly airtight grip on internal security seems to be unraveling.
My assumption that it was an internal Syrian hit was wrong.

From YNet, in a fascinating article that you really need to read about Israel's bombing of the Syrian nuclear reactor:

On the evening of August 2, 2008, 11 months after the bombing of the reactor, a festive dinner was held on the terrace of a summer house in Rimal al-Zahabiya, north of the Syrian city of Tartous. The summer house was adjacent to the shore and had a magnificent view. The terrace overlooked the sea and served as a refuge from the summer's high humidity. The guests were close friends of the house's owner, General Mohammed Suleiman, who had traveled there for a weekend break.

Suleiman was President Assad's top aide on military and security matters. He was in charge of the reactor's construction and its security. Government circles in Damascus referred to him Assad's shadow. His office was located in the presidential palace, next to Assad's, and few knew him in Syria and abroad. While Suleiman's name was not mentioned in the media, Mossad and Western intelligence agencies knew him and his actions well. The 47-year-old Syrian was an engineering graduate of Damascus University. During his studies he befriended Basil Assad, then-President Hafez Assad's firstborn son and Bashar Assad's older brother. After Basil's death in a road accident, his father was sure to bring Suleiman close to himself and his heir. In 2000, Hafez Assad died and his son Bashar was elected president. With his rise to power, the young president made Suleiman his confidant and close advisor.

Suleiman played a unique role: He was a member of the Syrian research board, which dealt with the development of missiles, chemical and biological weapons and nuclear research and development. As part of his job, he was Syria's contact with North Korea. He coordinated the transfer of the reactor's parts to Syria and was in charge of security arrangements for the North Korean scientists and technicians involved in its construction. The reactor's bombing was a serious blow for Suleiman, but not a lethal one. After overcoming the initial shock, he began to plan the construction of an alternate reactor, for which a location had yet to be determined. Suleiman's new mission was much more complex and difficult than before, since he was now aware that he was on the Israeli and American intelligence agencies' radars.

Ahead of the next phase of his secret mission, Suleiman took a few days off and traveled to his summer home. A vacation and dinner with his friends was the best medicine for the pressure he was under. From his seat by the table he watched the waves lazily crawling up the shore. But what he didn't see, at a distance of some 150 meters (165 yards) from the terrace, was two figures waiting, motionless in the dark water. They reached this point from a far off distance in a ship that dropped them off some two 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from Suleiman's house. From there they dived until they neared his home. The two were professional snipers, possessing a wealth of experience and nerves of steel. They carried their weapons in water-proof covers. When they reached the shore they immediately spotted Suleiman's house. The information they received from their country's intelligence agency was accurate. They identified the building and the terrace, scanned the people seated at the table and focused on their target: The general sitting opposite them, among his guests.

Around 9 pm the snipers returned to test their aim and range. They watched Suleiman, sitting on a chair at the center of the table surrounded by his friends. It was crowded around the table, which forced the snipers to reset their focus and aim at the host's head. They continued to hide in the water. Then the signal was given. The two emerged from the water to the shore, moved closer to the house, aimed their rifles and shot Suleiman simultaneously. The hit was lethal. His head was first jolted back and then collapsed forward on the table. Those present did not understand what had happened, because they didn't hear a sound – the rifles were equipped with silencers. Only after they noticed the blood flowing from Suleiman's head did they realize he had been shot. A commotion broke out on the terrace, which enabled the snipers to flee via a pre-planned escape route. The Sunday Times reported a slightly different version, saying the snipers were IDF Flotilla 13 commandoes who arrived in Tartous on a luxury yacht belonging to an Israeli businessman, carried out their mission, and vanished.
Sometimes, it really is the Mossad that assassinates major Arab figures.