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Kill Teams

Kill Teams

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Published by Ken Connor

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Published by: Ken Connor on May 25, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Kill TeamsA short history of the most memorable state-ordered hits in foreign lands.BY JOSHUA E. KEATING | MAY 3, 2011MAHMOUD AL-MABHOUHIn: DubaiBy: IsraelYear: 2010The act: On Jan. 19, 2010, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a senior Hamas military commander wantedfor the killing of two Israeli soldiers and suspected of being the primary link between thePalestinian group and Iran's Al-Quds Force, checked into the Al Bustan Rotana hotel near theDubai airport. After leaving the hotel for dinner that night with unknown parties, he returned andwas joined in the elevator up to his room by two men -- part of an 11-strong team that had cometo kill him. Mabhouh was escorted to an empty hotel room where he was reportedly sedated andthen suffocated with a pillow. The team made it out of the country safely and the body wasdiscovered the next day.COMMENTS (8) SHARE:Twitter  Reddit Buzz Bookmark and Share More...Dubai police issued arrest warrants for 11 individuals, many of whom were caught on surveillancecameras. It turned out that the assassins had used faked British, Irish, Australian, French, andGerman passports to disguise their identities. Israel's Mossad spy agency never acknowledgedinvolvement with the killing, but it was widely assumed to be responsible for the operation. Theresulting firestorm of criticism even had some in the Israeli media calling for the service's head tobe fired over the embarrassingly public incident. A number of countries, including Australia andBritain, expelled Israeli diplomats over the use of faked passports.RAUL REYESIn: Ecuador By: ColombiaYear: 2008The act: For decades, the diminutive and bespectacled Raul Reyes had been the public face of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Latin America's largest and mostprominent guerilla group, blamed for thousands of deaths over more than half a century. Inaddition to acting as the group's official spokeman, Reyes was wanted on a range of charges inColombia and the United States for offences including murder, kidnapping, terrorism, and drugtrafficking.On the morning of March 1, 2008, the Colombian military received confirmation from a spy thatReyes was near a town called Santa Rosa, just across the border with Ecuador. Planes weresent to bomb the camp followed by commandos who dropped in to recover the bodies of Reyesand 16 other rebels killed during the attack. According to some reports, Reyes may have been
fatally wounded by one of FARC's own landmines while trying to flee the camp.His killing provoked a diplomatic crisis in the region. The Ecuadorean government andVenezuelan President Hugo Chavez protested the violation of Ecuadorean sovereignty.Colombia's foreign minister at the time, Juan Manuel Santos, maintained that Colombian troopshad been acting in self-defense. The successful hit on Reyes was one factor that helped Santosbe elected president of Colombia in 2010.ABU MUSAB AL-ZARQAWIIn: IraqBy: United StatesYear: 2006The act: U.S. authorities were first told about Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born terroristoperator, by Kurdish intelligence assets in 2001 -- but most Americans only became aware of himon Feb. 3, 2003, when U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell went before the U.N. Security Councilto make the case for the invasion of Iraq. He mentioned that the country harbored a deadlyterrorist network headed by "Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an associate and collaborator of Osama binLaden and his al Qaeda lieutenants."Zarqawi's Zelig-like journey through the world of terrorism included more than a few high-profileoperations -- the Jordan suicide bombings of 2005, the Madrid train bombings of 2004, multipleattacks on Shiite worshippers and mosques in Iraq, and the killing of American contractor,Nicholas Berg, also in Iraq.Zarqawi was often referred to as al Qaeda's chief operator in Iraq and carried a $25 millionbounty on his head, though his actual level of contact with bin Laden and other global al Qaedaleaders was never completely clear. On June 7, 2006, U.S. warplanes dropped two 500-poundbombs on a house where Zarqawi was meeting with other militant leaders. The strike came after coalition forces had spent weeks tracking the movements of Zarqawi's spiritual advisor, SheikAbdul Rahman, who also was killed in the blast. Iraqi police and U.S. forces were on the sceneshortly after to identify the body and take photos, which were later released to the media.Zarqawi's death, at the time, was the most high-profile victory for U.S. forces in Iraq since thecapture of Saddam Hussein -- but his departure from the scene did little to stop the terroristviolence engulfing the country. Aerial strikes have also been used with deadly effectiveness innorthwest Pakistan to kill senior Taliban leaders including Baithullah Mehsud, and his successor,Hakimullah Mehsud, but debates continue over the tactic's legality and the collateral damageoften suffered by civilians.ZELIMKHAN YANDARBIYEVIn: Qatar By: RussiaYear: 2004The act: The Kazakh-born Yandarbiyev was one of the central figures in the Chechenindependence movement's turn toward radical Islamism. A former poet and children's author,Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev served as the breakaway republic's president from 1996 to 1997, after hispredecessor was assassinated by a targeted missile. After an electoral defeat, Yandarbiyev wasassigned by the Chechen government to the Persian Gulf to raise support for the Chechen
independence struggle among other Muslim countries. He eventually severed ties with theChechen government after calling for a more violent and explicitly religious form of jihad to bewaged in the Caucasus. Yandarbiyev was placed on the U.N. Security Council's blacklist of alQaeda-related terrorist suspects in 2003.On Feb. 13, 2004, while driving home from mosque in Qatar, Yandarbiyev's car exploded, killinghim, two of his bodyguards, and seriously injuring his 12-year-old son. The event caused a major diplomatic row between Russia and Qatar, with the Gulf kingdom expelling a Russian diplomat for his alleged involvement in the killings. Two Russian agents were arrested and later convicted of planting the bomb on orders from Russian authorities, though the Kremlin repeatedly deniedinvolvement. (In a bizarre form of retaliation, Russia arrested two members of the Qatari wrestlingteam a short time afteward and charged them with currency violations.)The two alleged assassins were eventually extradited to Russia, but in 2005, officials admittedthat they were no longer in Russian jails and their whereabouts were unknown.YAHYA AYYASHIn: GazaBy: IsraelYear: 1996The act: Hamas's chief bomb-maker and planner of suicide attacks, known as "The Engineer,"knew that his reliance on cellular telephones carried with it the risk of surveillance and sabotage,but -- with landline service unreliable in Gaza -- he had little choice. The fatal flaw in YahyaAyyash's otherwise careful security arrangements was an associate named Osama Hamad, whoAyyash was living with in 1996. In addition to his activities for Hamas, Ayyash worked for hisuncle -- a wealthy contractor with ties to the Israeli government -- and was given a cell phone for business use.On Jan. 5, 1996, Hamad, according to his own account, got a call on his landline from his uncletelling him to turn on the cell phone as a call was about to come through. A half hour later,Ayyash's father tried to call the landline but found it wasn't working. When he called the cellphone, Hamad handed the phone to Ayyash -- and 50 grams of high-grade explosives hiddeninside the device exploded, instantly killing the suicide bombing mastermind.It's widely assumed that the Israeli security service Shin Bet was behind the attack -- though, asusual, they never took credit for it. Since Ayyash's death, the Palestinian Authority has repeatedlyangered the Israeli government by naming streets and even their presidential offices after theslain militant.ORLANDO LETELIERIn: United StatesBy: ChileYear: 1976The act: On Sept. 21, 1976, a car traveling through Sheridan Circle on Washington D.C.'sEmbassy Row exploded, killing Orlando Letelier, who had served as Chile's ambassador to theUnited States, foreign minister, and minister of defense under leftist President Salvador Allende --as well as a young American colleague, Ronni Moffitt. Since emigrating to Washington after beingreleased from jail by Augusto Pinochet's right-wing dictatorship, Letelier had worked with Moffitt at

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