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Were the KGB Involved in Beirut's Civil War?

Originally published under Ask Mr. History. Published Online: July 11, 2013 
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Recently I've heard a story from my grandfather about Soviet KGB secret operations in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War. Do you know what really happened in there?

— Avner

? ? ?

Dear Avner,

Obviously, if the CIA had agents in Beirut, so did the KGB. The only known active role it played, however, occurred in October 1985 when the Islamic Liberation Organization—a militant offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood—kidnapped four Soviet diplomats in Beirut, allegedly in reprisal for the Soviet Union's support of Syria, which had sent a "peacekeeping force" into Lebanon (and soon got involved in intermittent fighting, perhaps more with Israeli forces there than with PLO fighters).  The KGB called in its muscle, Spetsgruppa Alfa. By the time the A team arrived, however, word had surfaced that one of the diplomats had already been killed. In accordance with Soviet policy stipulating no negotiations with terrorists, the KGB pinpointed relatives of the kidnappers, who were abducted by the A team and subsequently body parts of those relatives began turning up all over Beirut until the hostages were finally freed. An alternative story, however, has it that the Soviets freed the captives by means of secret negotiations with Hezbollah's Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah and Jordan's King Hussein to bring their influence to bear on the ILO. Maybe someday we'll learn which story is truer than the other?



Jon Guttman
Research Director
Weider History Group
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