How ‘Ghosts of Beirut’ Recreated the Hunt for the World’s Deadliest Terrorist

Earlier than Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda attacked the US on Sept. 11, 2001, the world’s deadliest terrorist — and positively the one who killed essentially the most Individuals — was somebody the U.S. public knew little about.

Individuals have been properly conscious of Imad Mughniyeh’s work. He masterminded the 1983 assault on the Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 members of the U.S. navy and the second bombing that day, which killed 58 French paratroopers.

“I believe he wasn’t as well-known as a result of by design, he stored his title secret,” Greg Barker, director of the brand new Showtime sequence “Ghosts of Beirut,” tells “Individuals knew his title, however solely inside sure circles. For 25 years, the one picture they’d was his highschool passport picture.”

Mughniyeh additionally executed the bombing of the U.S. embassy compound in Beirut, one which killed 63 individuals, together with CIA Station Chief Kenneth Haas and Robert Ames, the company’s Close to East director. Searching Imad Mughniyeh turned a close to obsession for a lot of within the CIA, however they did not even know what he regarded like.

“Ghosts of Beirut” is a brand new four-episode restricted sequence that recreates the CIA’s hunt for Mughniyeh, dramatizing the company’s partnership with Israel’s intelligence service, Mossad, and exhibits the worldwide cloak-and-dagger mission that in the end resulted in Mughiyeh’s 2008 assassination on the streets of Damascus.

“There was blood lust to go after him, over time inside the company,” says Barker. “There have been individuals whose careers have been formed in a really dramatic method by the occasions in Beirut within the mid-Eighties, who then went on to different positions throughout the company, even on the very highest ranges.”

Among the many quite a few different assaults on international nationals in Lebanon and elsewhere, Mughniyeh’s enduring legacy might be the event of the suicide bomber as a terror tactic. Suicide assaults had occurred up to now, but it surely was Mughniyeh’s Beirut-based Islamic Jihad group that made martyrs of bombers.

“I believe there have been classes the CIA took from that, that knowledgeable how the company advanced over time, notably the way it reacted after 9/11,” Barker says. “Right here you will have this child on the streets, who at 19 reinvents suicide bombing, one thing he might persuade individuals to do for his personal trigger.”

Lebanese terrorist mastermind Imad Mughniyeh (Hisham Suleiman, proper) meets together with his Iranian financier, Qassem Suleimani (Khalid Benchegra), in “Ghosts of Beirut.” (Showtime)

Mughniyeh and Islamic Jihad would later be accused of the kidnapping and homicide of quite a few civilians in Lebanon, together with journalist Terry Anderson and William Francis Buckley, the CIA station chief in Beirut who took over after Haas’ homicide. Mughniyeh had additionally been charged with the hijacking of TWA Flight 847, the place U.S. Navy Seabee Robert Stethem was tortured and killed.

His different crimes embody an assault on the Israeli embassy in Argentina, cross-border assaults on the Israel Protection Forces and bombing assaults on international embassies, industrial facilities and an airport in Kuwait.

“Ghosts of Beirut” seamlessly blends actual archival information stories and interviews with real-world CIA operatives who have been concerned with the company throughout Mughniyeh’s reign of terror in Lebanon with the hanging dramatized narrative about how the he went from a 19-year-old child in Beirut to the world’s deadliest terrorist chief.

Even after the September eleventh assaults, Mughniyeh and his picture have been a intently guarded secret inside Hezbollah. The CIA did not know what a 44-year-old Mughniyeh would possibly seem like. How did a filmmaker like Greg Barker get inside the pinnacle and historical past of such a shadowy determine?

“I can not give names,” Barker says, “however there was a former Mossad man who advised us how they bought an image of him for the primary time in 25 years, which is proven on the finish of episode three. His son and spouse, to whom he was married at 19, confront him about an affair he is having.”

“From there, you extrapolate again. I can not get into particulars, however they have been like some other 19-year-olds who bought married. We have now different sources that inform us about what she might have gone via, Mughniyeh’s private timeline, an Iranian defector who was a recruiter. We might discover these tales and so they all clicked.”

When Barker would discover a snippet of knowledge, that may unlock a retired CIA officer or another person with private expertise within the hunt for Mughniyeh. He started piecing collectively details that had by no means been put collectively earlier than.

“In the midst of doing this analysis, we managed to put all of them out in a timeline with this new perception, connecting this present story with the previous,” Barker says. “After which immediately it simply type of seemed to be a type of narrative construction of the right way to inform the story.”

The result’s Barker’s masterful retelling of how Imad Mughniyeh turned a terrorist supervillain and the way the CIA and Mossad teamed as much as take him down. “Ghosts of Beirut” is at present airing on Showtime and streaming on the Showtime Anytime app and is on the market via the Paramount+ app.

— Blake Stilwell could be reached at [email protected]. He can be discovered on Twitter @blakestilwell or on LinkedIn.

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