Since his death, Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah has been hailed as a "merciful father" by Hassan Nasrallah, and in the West as a "moderate" Muslim, largely for having expressed disapproval of the 9/11 attacks. But there is much more to Fadlallah's story that has been so quickly forgotten.
"Sheikh Fadlallah was the terrorist mastermind behind the Lebanon hostage crisis," by Con Coughlin for the Telegraph, July 5:
Don't be fooled by all the tributes that are pouring out following the death in Beirut at the weekend of Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, the so-called spiritual leader of the radical Shi'ite Muslim militia Hizbollah. The U.S. State Department's classifaction of Fadlallah as a terrorist was spot on, and when you look back at his track record you can see he was right up there with other infamous terror masterminds, such as Abu Nidal and Carlos the Jackal.
One of Fadlallah's last acts before he died was to issue a fatwa authorising the use of suicide bomb attacks. The mystery here is why he waited so long. For as a founder member of Hizbollah - he sat on the organisation's ruling council -Fadlallah gave his personal approval to the massive suicide truck bomb attacks that levelled the American Embassy and Marine compound in Beirut in 1983, killing more than 300 people, including the then CIA station chief. Fadlallah gave his personal blessing to the suicide bombers before they left for their deadly mission.
Fadlallah also masterminded the hostage crisis in Lebanon in the mid-1980s. I remember interviewing him at his house in Beirut's southern suburbs in 1985 at the height of Terry Waite's mission to free the Americans then being held by Hizbollah on Iran's orders (Fadlallah was a close friend of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran's Islamic revolution.)
Fadlallah himself was charm personified during the interview, offering me sweet tea and offering his apologies that he could do nothing to release the hostages, but their prospects might improve if only the pesky Americans would stop trying to involve themselves in Lebanon's affairs. But when I left one of his "bodyguards" insisted on seeing my passport. Later I discovered from a Lebanese friend that they were Hizbollah terrorists checking to see if I was an American. Had I been, I would have been carted off to a dank cell. I was lucky. Six months later my friend John McCarthy paid a similar visit to Sheikh Fadlallah, and was kidnapped the following day.
The miracle of Sheikh Fadlallah's life is that he lived to a ripe old age and died in his bed. I, for one, will not miss his malign influence on the Middle East.