Hezbollah hijackers seized a Kuwait Airlines plane on December 4, 1984, murdering four of the passengers (two Americans). Half a year later, on June 14, 1985, Hezbollah jihadists hijacked TWA Flight 847 following its departure from Greece. While diverting the aircraft to Lebanon, they discovered that one of their hostages was a U.S. Navy diver named Robert Stethem. The jihadists beat Stethem severely, then shot him to death before finally dumping his body onto the tarmac of the Beirut airport.
On February 17, 1988, Hezbollah kidnapped Colonel William Higgins, a U.S. Marine monitoring the terror organization in Lebanon pursuant to a United Nations-brokered truce. The jihadists murdered him.
By the late 1980s, al Qaeda had formed and begun redirecting its global jihad against the United States. One of Osama bin Laden’s stated priorities – as the Justice Department explained in a later indictment – was to put aside differences with Shiites so that they could join forces against the U.S. Consequently, as the indictment against bin Laden elaborated:
Al Qaeda also forged alliances … with the government of Iran and its associated terrorist group Hezballah [sic] for the purpose of working together against their perceived common enemies in the West, particularly the United States.
It is thus no surprise that when Ali Mohamed, a top al Qaeda leader operative, pled guilty in connection with the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, he stated:
I was aware of certain contacts between al Qaeda and [Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the terrorist organization headed by bin Laden’s then-deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri], on one side, and Iran and Hezbollah on the other side. I arranged security for a meeting in the Sudan between [Imad Mugniyah], Hezbollah’s chief, and bin Laden. Hezbollah provided explosives training for al Qaeda and al Jihad. Iran supplied Egyptian [Islamic] Jihad with weapons. Iran also used Hezbollah to supply explosives that were disguised to look like rocks.
Upon combing U.S. intelligence files, the 9/11 Commission learned of several meetings between Iranian officials and al Qaeda operatives, including bin Laden and Zawahiri, particularly in Sudan. Tom Joscelyn of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who may be our country’s most knowledgeable terrorism analyst, has observed that the testimony of Jamal al-Fadl, a former al Qaeda member who became a government cooperating witness, also stressed the close ties between al Qaeda and Hezbollah. Among the top al Qaeda leaders who received Iran-sponsored training was the late Saif al-Adel, who eventually became bin Laden’s operations chief. Adel was a driving force behind aforementioned 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Eastern Africa.
In this regard, the 9/11 Commission report states:
[S]enior al Qaeda operatives and trainers traveled to Iran to receive training in explosives. In the fall of 1993, another such delegation went to the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon for further training in explosives as well as intelligence and security.
That instruction, held at Hezbollah camps, included al Qaeda’s top military committee members and several operatives who were involved with its Kenya cells long before the 1998 embassy bombings.