The “Musa Sadr Is Alive” Hoax Has Deceived Lebanon’s Shia for 39 Years


Franklin Lamb | OpEd News – TRANSCEND Media Service

Oxford, UK

Ceremony planned on anniversary of Imam Musa Al-Sadr’s abduction.
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6 Sep 2017 – Every year during late August, this observer receives emails from people who love and admire the Iranian born Imam Musa Sadr and his colleagues Sheik Mohammad Yacoub and journalist Abbas Baddredinne. The three disappeared on August 31, 1978 in Tripoli, Libya.

One email that I received last week is as follows:

“Dear Mr. Lamb,

I hope this email finds you well. I am one of the millions who are waiting to know the answer to the question “where is Imam Mousa Alsader?” And since you are the only one who is really digging to find the truth. Do you have an answer yet?

Thank you.”

Every August 29th the same Lebanese and Iranian politicians, for political and financial benefit deceive Shia Muslims in both countries and globally about the fate of Imam Musa Sadr. This year was no different. Last month, yet again reading, his annual script, Amal leader Nabeh Berri repeated the ad nausea hoax he has employed for the past nearly four decades.

One reason for annually repeating the fraud that that Musa Sadr is alive and was seen recently in Libya is that certain parties fear the consequences if the truth becomes known about who convinced Gadaffi to arrange the Imam’s “disappearance” and who has covered it up. Nabeh Berri could be ousted from Amal, charged with fraudulently receiving millions of dollars of hush money and removed from Lebanese politics.  And the current regime in Iran could well face a revolution. The anger of the millions of Shia and others who still express deep devotion for Musa Sadr would likely be volcanic.

Imam Musa Sadr shortly before his departure in late August 1978 for Libya. Photo courtesy of the Sadr Foundation, Beirut, Lebanon

Last month, Amal leader Berri was delivering a speech in my neighborhood in south Beirut commemorating the 1978 disappearance of Imam Musa Sadr and his companions during a trip to Libya. Berri said that they are still alive and called for continuing efforts to find them. Berri makes the same false claims annually. He did not call for an investigation while Gadaffi was alive because he and his co-conspirators feared the mercurial Gadaffi might become angered and tell the truth which is that the chief aide to Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini, Mohammad Hossein Beheshti, the second most powerful person in the political hierarchy of Iran after the revolution overthrew the Shah, arranged for Musa Sadr’s murder.

Berri also called last month on the “Lebanese media to follow up on Sadr’s disappearance adding that the Lebanese judicial system is also looking into the case”. He added that “unfortunately the committee hasn’t been able to visit Libya due to the political instability. But it followed up on the case from nearby countries.”

In point of fact Berri’s statements are nonsense. No serious investigation has ever been undertaken by “the Lebanese judicial system” and will not be during his lifetime due to political pressure by Berri, Iran and their collaborators to hide the truth. He did arrange twice for a Lebanese delegation mainly including political cronies but no professional investigator to visit Libya and once Egypt but they learned nothing because the few former Libya officials they interviewed complained publicly that his delegation was not serious about wanting to learn the truth of the fate of Musa Sadr. They were right.

Over the years when Berri has been pressed about offering some proof that Musa Sadr is alive he would say, as his did last week “do not question me now or ever!”  And that “there is no DNA to prove that the Sadr delegation is dead. “Berri has known all along that there is and never will be any DNA from Musa Sadr and his colleagues because the three bodies decomposed thirty nine years ago and their remains were presumably eaten by fish as Gadaffi’s son Seif al-Islam claims.

Since Muammar Gaddafi was deposed and killed in 2011, Berri and Iran have repeatedly and disingenuously called on the Libyan government to launch an investigation into Sadr’s disappearance.   They did not do so while Gaddafi was alive because they feared the mercurial  Gaddafi would tell the truth, which included him paying “silence money” to certain Lebanese politicians as well as that Iran was responsible for Musa Sadr’ disappearance.

The head of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Police Commission, Alaeddin Boroujerdi once again last week claimed that Musa Sadr was alive and recently seen and had been kidnapped by Gadaffi. He added that “The call for finding Imam Musa al-Sadr is a national, Islamic, revolutionary and resistance demand and both Iran and Lebanon are resolute in this cause.” The fact is that Alaeddin Boroujerdi has known for more than three decades, as has Berri and several others that Musa Sadr and his companions were killed on September 4th of 1978 and their bodies dumped into the Mediterranean Sea.

The answer to last week’s email question from the gentleman noted above is briefly outlined below. In summation it is that Imam Musa Sadr and his two friends were killed on Monday September 4, 1978 or orders from Moammar Gadaffi for the reason that the chief aide to Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini, Mohammad Hossein Beheshti   spoke with Gadaffi by phone stating that Musa Sadr was a threat to Khomeini’s leadership of Iran’s Revolution, was a CIA informer and needed to be “disappeared” during his visit to Libya.

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During the morning of 25 August 1978, Imam Musa Sadr and two companions departed Beirut Airport for Tripoli, Libya at the invitation of Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi to meet with Libyan officials. Imam Sadr had been informed a week earlier that his itinerary would include discussions as with an Iranian delegation headed by Ayatollah Khomeini’s chief aide, Ayatollah Mohammad Hussein Beshesti.

The purpose of the planned few days of meetings, as Gadaffi advised Imam Sadr was “to resolve political differences.” Musa Sadr was persuaded that meeting the Iranians would be useful so they could resolve growing problems and tensions that Khomeini’s inner circle believed could potentially destroy their revolution. As well as undermine the establishment of a hoped for, but still unsure “Islamic Republic of Iran.”

An international telephone conversation had taken place that morning from Gadaffi’s office now widely thought to have been with Ayatollah Behesti in Tehran, over what to do with Imam Sadr and the Lebanese delegation. Gadaffi was instructed during the conversation by Behesti, according to a claimed CIA phone monitoring report, to prevent the Sadr delegation from leaving Libya “by all means necessary.” This precise language, but not the CIA monitoring of the conversation, has also been claimed by Kai Bird in his book, “The Good Spy.” Gadaffi was also advised during the phone call that Sadr was a “western agent” and a “threat to Ayatollah Khomeini.” Those words were presumably chosen by an increasingly paranoid Behesti to justify Imam Sadr’s death sentence.

As Beheshti repeated three times to Gadaffi during their phone conversation, there were to be no witnesses so Shiek Mohammad Yacoub and journalist Abbas Badreddine were also murdered. The CIA, M16, Iran, and Lebanon’s Amal Movement, and Hezbollah among several others reportedly have access to the recording of the Gadaffi-Beshesti conversation. But for nearly forty years the hoax that the trio were seen alive in various prisons around Libya and might soon be coming home was foisted on the public. There is mounting pressure on the UK and US and other parties to release the recording of the Gadaffi-Beshesti conversation in order to reveal Iran’s responsibility for the murders of the Shia leader Musa Sadr.

On arrival at Tripoli Airport the Sadr delegation was met by three officials including Libya’s Foreign Minister Taha El Sheriff Ben Amer. After checking into the Peace Hotel in Tripoli the Musa delegation was immediately taken to Gadaffi’s office for a meeting. The delegation was told that the Mohammad Beheshti delegation from Tehran was delayed but expected shortly. The Iranian delegation never arrived nor, as recent evidence confirms, it was never intended that it would.

According to claimed eyewitnesses, there was a short animated-perhaps even hostile-discussion between Imam Sadr and Libyan leader Gadaffi during their initial meeting. But heated exchanges were common with the volatile Gadaffi who usually soon calmed down according to his cousin Ahmed Gaddaf al-Dam and former Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah Senussi as well as Muammar Gadaffi’s son Seif el Islam.

But the Imam’s fate had already been sealed before his delegation returned to their hotel accommodations to wait for Ayatollah Behsheti.

Muammar Gadaffi’s former personal aide, Colonial Ahmad Ramadan al-Asaibie, gave an interview to journalist Jenan Moussa which was released by the UAE-based television channel Al-Aan on 8 November 2011. Ramadan claims to have witnessed the arrival at Muammar Gaddafi’s Headquarters of the Sadr delegation. Following the encounter, Colonel Gaddafi reportedly ordered that the Sadr delegation be taken to their hotel. They were escorted by Foreign Minister Taha El Sheriff Ben Amer ( who would soon be killed in a then mysterious, but now explained helicopter crash), intelligence chief General Abu Ghalia Fraj, and General Bashir Humeida, head of Gadaffi’s “Presidential Administration.”

After waiting at his hotel for three days for the promised Mohammad Behsesti meeting, Musa Sadr, known to be impatient, became suspicious after reportedly speaking with colleagues in Lebanon and decided to depart immediately for Beirut. His phone call had been monitored by Libyan Intelligence and when the Sadr delegation, arrived at Tripoli airport, they were confronted in the VIP lounge and asked to return to his hotel. But Imam Sadr refused.

Refusing to return to their hotel and insisting on taking a flight to Beirut, Imam Sadr and his companions were then assaulted and taken by force to the town of Janzour, one hour  West of Tripoli by two militiamen from the Abu Nidal Organization. At the time Abu Nidal was said to be somewhat on the outs with Gadaffi but still did some work for him. Four years later Abu Nidal’s relations with Gadaffi had improved and he was provided an office two blocks west of Green Square in Tripoli which this observer visited in 1985. In the back of his building was a small field. After the summer of 2011 various body parts were found buried in the yard where visitors were often offered tea. But none of the remains were ever proven to belong to the Musa Sadr delegation despite occasional media speculation and gossip in Libya to the contrary.

Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper based on information from Gadaffi security officials who defected during the 2011 revolution, correctly reported that Abu Nidal shot and killed Musa Sadr and his companions on September 5 1978. This observer later was advised by a longtime Libyan government official that before being shot they had been imprisoned for three days.

As noted above, the actual executions were performed by two associates of the hired Palestinian assassin Sabri Khalil al-Banna. Al-Banna was born in Jaffa Palestine in May of 1937, and took the nom de guerre, “Abu Nidal” (‘father of the struggle’). He organized the Fatah- Revolutionary Council (FRC) in 1974 after splitting from Yasser Arafat’s Fatah faction within the PLO. At the height of its power in the 1970s and 1980s, the Abu Nidal Organization (ANO) as the FRC soon became known, was widely regarded as the most ruthless of the Palestinian groups. According to former Gaddafi officials as well as al-Khabar Press, Abu Nidal was tasked over nearly three decades with killing hundreds of Gadaffi regime opponents. A service Abu Nidal also performed for Saddam Hussein until he fell out with Saddam and was himself killed in Bagdad in August of 2002. Abu Nidal also did mercenary work for other Arab leaders.

Acting as a freelance contractor, Abu Nidal is believed to have ordered attacks in 20 countries, killing hundreds and injuring over one thousand. Journalist David Hirst wrote in the Guardian on the news of Abu Nidal’s violent death rumored, to have been ordered by Saddam Hussein: “He served only himself, only the warped personal drives that pushed him into hideous crimes. He was the ultimate mercenary.”

Jallouds arrangement for Nidal’s assignment was matter of fact in the sense that they had a long history of collaboration. Jalloud abandoned Gadhafi on August 11, 2011, joined the rebels and now lives in France. In October of 2016 he reportedly admitted to colleagues now living in Cairo that Abu Nidal killed the three Lebanese and also that their bodies were dumped into the Mediterranean Sea weighted down with concrete cinder blocks tied to their legs.

After being shot in Janzour, the three bodies were flown that night of September 5, 1978 to Sobha an oasis city in the southwestern Libyan desert approximately 400 miles to the South of Tripoli which this observer visited in early August of 2011 with a former Libyan official. We were shown by locals the area where the three bodies were initially buried and were advised that the soil around unmarked grave had been immediately raked smooth so as disguise the burial site.

Sobha was and remains a Gadaffi tribal stronghold and was used from time to time according of former Libyan officials and local townspeople for secret burials. To the southeast of the town is a Libyan Airbase which used to include multiple Mig-25. Largely destroyed by NATO aircraft in July of 2011, it is now also a hub for Libyan airlines.

During the burial of the Sadr delegation, an unanticipated problem arose. There was a hitch. Even though it was past midnight when the bodies were being buried, two or three villagers living nearby heard the noise of the shovels and voices and walked to the site to see what was happening. It was not the first time Sobha residents became aware of early morning burials in their town. The villagers did not speak. Rather they just watched for less than a minute and quickly departed.

Advised that the burial had been observed by locals, Jalloud reportedly became angry and ordered the bodies removed the next night, September 5-6, 1978. The bodies were immediately taken to the Sobha Airbase and from there they were flown by helicopter to the Mediterranean Sea west of Janzour and dumped into the sea..

As a further measure to assure that the disappearance of Imam Sadr was kept quiet, the helicopter was blown up immediately following the dumping of the three bodies which, as noted above, had concrete cinder blocks tied to their legs. A former Libyan Revolutionary Council member, Abdul-Moneim al-Huni, claims to have information that his disappeared brother-in- law, pilot Lt. Col. Najieddine Yazigi, who piloted helicopters at the Sobha Air Base flew the helicopter. He claims that a former aide to Jalloud told him that after dumping the Sadr delegation bodies, the helicopter his relative al-Yazaji was piloting was ordered shot down on the return flight. It was reportedly hit by a missile and it exploded above the Mediterranean.

Libya’s Foreign Minister at the time, the affable Taha El Sheriff Ben Amer, who was also privy to the Sadr-Gadaffi meeting and the forced removal of Sadr’s delegation, was also soon killed in an unexplained helicopter crash. He was reportedly killed because the regime, specifically Jalloud, did not trust the loquacious diplomat to keep quiet about what he knew.

It was Mohamad Alkhadar, during a 2012 meeting at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Cairo, that the close Muammar Gadaffi associative revealed that Libyan intelligence operative Mohamad Rehiby with two other agents were sent to Rome to check into the Holiday Inn carrying the Musa Sadr delegation passports and luggage. Rehiby, was wearing the Imams clothes and he shuffled a bit as he walked on elevated shoes wanting to appear taller. Imam Sadr was 6 feet 6 inches tall, Rehiby barely six feet. Instead Rehiby drew curious stares from the hotel front desk staff and guests, compromising his mission a bit.

The Libyan agents put their bags in their rooms, stayed out of site, and they said nothing about checking out to the hotel’s front desk. They simply left their bags, including Rehiby’s elevated shoes “in Imam Sadr’s room” and took a taxi to Rome’s Leonardo Da Vinci airport and returned to Libya. For years Rehiby shoes jokes passed among Gadaffi regime insiders according to friends.

They had been instructed by Libyan intelligence to create the false impression that the Imam Sadr delegation has been kidnapped in Rome as part of a Shia rivalry. In February of 2006, an investigation by an Italian court determined that claims that Imam Sadr left Libya for Italy to have been a clumsily perpetrated hoax.

The above sequence of events and the fate of the Imam Sadr delegation is what Gaddafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, currently freed from imprisonment in Zintan, West of Tripoli, and currently the well hosted guest of a Gadaffi friendly tribe in the area, has made a black joke about more than once.

Seif sometimes has mentioned to inquirers, including an Italian journalist as well as to this observer at Tripoli’s Rixos Hotel in July of 2011, that “Sayed Musa Sadr and his friends came to dinner to eat some fish. But, as things turned out, some fish ate them.”

Recently, a longtime aide to Seif, Mohamed Ismail , also confirmed to the New York Times that the Musa Sadr delegation had killed and their bodies thrown into the sea.

During the following week, the essence of some of this information, and why the Sadr delegation was killed became known to Amal officials in Lebanon as well as to others in the region. According to Hannibal Gadaffi’s former lawyer Borusha Khalil, they included then prominent Shia leaders Mohammed Baqir al-Sadr, Mohammad Mahdi Shamseddine and others.

For how long the “Musa Sadr is still alive and was seen recently in Libya” hoax will continue to deceive ever fewer Shia and supporters of the vanished Imam and his two colleagues Sheik Mohammad Yacoub and Abbas Badreddine is hard to gage. The evidence above is the most probative gathered and analyzed to date and has never been refuted. No doubt more details will emerge especially when the likes of Seif al Islam, Maoammar Gadaffi’s son goes public which he has agreed with this observer to do.

Today those who perpetrated Musa Sadr hoax are under increasing pressure in Lebanon and Iran to tell the truth about what they know and when they knew it.


Franklin P. Lamb, LLB, LLM, PhD, Legal Adviser, The Sabra-Shatila Scholarship Program, Shatila Camp  ( is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment.  Volunteer with the Palestine Civil Rights Campaign, Beirut and Washington, DC committed to help achieving  the Right to Work and the Right to Home Ownership for every Palestinian Refugee in Lebanon. Lamb’s recent book, Syria’s Endangered Heritage: An international Responsibility to Protect and Preserve, is available on Amazon and other ebook outlets as well as at . For Syria Heritage updates, please visit: To provide a meal to a Syrian refugee child in Lebanon please visit: Lamb is reachable c/o or

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