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Hezbollah leader's death in Syria could trigger retaliation

Imad Mughnieh, suspected of planning kidnappings, hijacking, and attacks in Beirut during the 1980s and '90s, was killed in Damascus Tuesday night.

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Most wanted: Imad Mughnieh, wanted for attacks on US and Israeli targets, is seen in an undated photo taken from Hizbullah's Al Manar television station.

Mohamed Azakir/Reuters

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A shadowy senior Hezbollah commander, thought to have masterminded spectacular terrorist attacks in the 1980s, was killed Tuesday in a Damascus car bombing that will almost certainly trigger a retaliation from the militant Shiite group.

Imad Mughnieh's legendary militant credentials, which are thought to include attacks on the US Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut, made him a prime American and Israeli target for decades and a significant figure in the arsenal of Hezbollah, the Islamist political and guerrilla force that Washington calls a terrorist organization. Analysts say that with Mr. Mughnieh out of the picture, Hizbullah has lost a key asset in its ability to strike in Lebanon or the region.

"This is as big a blow as it gets for Hizbullah security. It's even bigger than killing [Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan] Nasrallah," says Magnus Ranstorp, a Hezbollah specialist and research director at the Center for Asymmetric Threat Studies at the Swedish National Defense College in Stockholm.

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