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December 09, 2002

Double agent’ played deadly game

A fascinating story of a drug dealer, double agent, involved in Israeli forces in Lebanon, the Hezbullah, and just abut anything in the strange area that is Lebanon. Many people wanted him dead. Finally someone, still unown, accomplished the job.
Ramzi Nohra was a marked man and he knew it. The windows set in the thick stone walls of his sprawling mansion in Ibl al-Saqi were fitted with bullet-proof steel shutters. Nohra would sit in his favorite armchair on the ground floor, his eyes darting between the wide-screen television, invariably tuned to Hizbullah’s Al-Manar television, and the three smaller TV monitors on a shelf above. Each screen was split into four separate wide-angle views of the outside of his mansion and the approaches along the road. Tucked into the cushion of his chair within easy reach was a 9mm pistol.
Nohra had made powerful enemies during his career as one of the most notorious drug smugglers and successful double agents in the history of Israel’s occupation of the South.
He and his brother, Mufid, were an unlikely team. Where Ramzi was sharp, devious and cautious, Mufid would openly boast of his membership with Hizbullah, an unlikely association for this tough Maronite.
For almost 20 years, Ramzi Nohra, blessed with acute survival instincts, managed to play a deadly game of cat and mouse in south Lebanon’s merciless conflict, tip-toeing a precarious line between Hizbullah and the intelligence services of Lebanon, Syria and Israel. And all the time amassing a fortune through drug smuggling.
But on Friday, Nohra’s luck finally ran out. A 5-kilogram bomb planted on the side of the main road between Ibl al-Saqi and Kawkab exploded as his Mercedes passed by. Nohra, 44, was killed instantly along with his 30-year-old nephew Elie Issa.
For Mufid, there was little doubt who was to blame for the assassination: “I accuse Israel because we are against Israel, and (we were) among the people who worked with the resistance during the occupation until the liberation,” he said. “Of course this is revenge.”
The Israelis have characteristically remained silent on Nohra’s demise. But they had good reason to want him dead. After all, Nohra captured and turned over to the Lebanese authorities the Israeli-trained assassin of Fouad Mughnieh, whose brother Imad was a Hizbullah security chief and is considered by the United States as second only to Osama bin Laden in the “terrorism” business. Nohra also had been implicated in the kidnapping of three Israeli soldiers from the Shebaa Farms in October 2000, a charge he always denied ­ albeit with a twinkle in his eye.
Following the Israeli troop withdrawal in May 2000, Nohra’s Israeli drug smuggling connections allegedly were exploited by Hizbullah to establish an impressive intelligence gathering network. His other brother, Kamil, was named in an Israeli court last month as the link between Hizbullah and a lieutenant colonel in the Israeli Army who was arrested and charged with heading a spy ring. The Israeli officer supplied Kamil Nohra with information in exchange for drugs. Kamil passed the intelligence on to Hizbullah.
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