As much as we’d like to think that all assassins are Hollywood anti-heroes killing in the name of justice, the truth is often much sketchier, though sometimes equally dramatic.
In fact, some assassinations are suspicious and unresolved, drawing speculation on whether or not they were prompted by government orders — either of the victim’s own government, or that of a foreign state.
State-sponsored assassinations have a long history both in America and the rest of the world. According to Global Research, it is estimated that the CIA has been involved in the assassination or attempted assassination of 37 world leaders before 2005, most of which occurred during the Cold War.
But even in the last decade, unsolved murders continue to draw skepticism. Here are some more recent (and possibly government-sponsored) assassinations from across the globe you might not have known about, which have yet to be answered for conclusively.
2006: Alexander Litvinenko, poisoned in London.
Image from Andrew Kuznetsov via Flickr and Simon Kozhin via Wiki Commons, modified by Curiousmatic.
Alexander Litvinenko was a former member of the Russian secret service, according to the Guardian, who died in 2006 several weeks after being poisoned in London, where he lived under political asylum.
Litvinenko, on his death bed, blamed the Russian government for the poisoning. At the time, he was being paid by both British and Spanish secret services, the BBC reports.
When still working for the FSB in Russia, Litvinenko had been ordered to assassinate his friend and part-time employer, Russian businessman Boris Berezovsky. Instead, he took this evidence of corruption to then-head of the FSB Vladimir Putin, who refused to corroborate his accusations.
Frustrated, Litvinenko held a press conference revealing the corruption himself, for which he was dismissed from the FSB and held in prison temporarily, before fleeing Russia with his family and claiming asylum in the UK.
On November 1, 2006, Litvinenko became ill and was hospitalized. When his conditions worsened, he was treated unsuccessfully for thallium poisoning, and died on the 23rd, age 44.
After his death, British nuclear labs identified the lethal poison: the radioisotope polonium-210, which he had ingested by mouth the day he fell ill. Putin denied involvement, according to the BBC.
Upon investigation and radiation-tracing, British authorities named Andrei Lugovoi, the former head of security for one of Berezovsky’s companies, as the prime suspect for the assassination. Unfortunately, the Russian government refused a request for extradition, citing a “lack of evidence.”
2010: Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, smothered in Dubai.
Mahmous al-Mabhouh was a Hamas military leader, smothered and drugged in a hotel room in Dubai on January 20, 2010. This assassination was orchestrated and carried out by a team of as many as 29 people, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The assassination was planned and carried out in an intricate plot devised by what is believed to be the Israeli Intelligence service Mossad, though Israel has denied involvement. The victim was allegedly responsible for the deaths of two Israeli soldiers in the ‘80s, as well as numerous other acts of armed resistance against Israel.
The agile team of assassins allegedly flew into Dubai dressed as businesspeople with forged passports from various European nations. They stayed at different hotels, and met up once more at a shopping center. The group then split up again in separate disguises to locate their target’s hotel room, where they would wait to ambush him later, the Telegraph details.
Though the team was seemingly professional and highly skilled, the one thing they missed was the security technology in Dubai, the Wall Street Journal speculates. Cameras and data collectors were able to record and piece together what happened before, during, and after the assassination. By the time Maabhou’s body was found, however, the assassins had fled the country, never to be prosecuted in full.
2013: Mojtaba Ahmadi, shot near Tehran.
Mojtaba Ahmadi, Iranian cyber warfare commander, was shot twice in the heart in a suspected assassination in October 2013, the Telegraph reports. There were reportedly two men on motorbikes involved, though few other details are known.
Once more, Israel’s intelligence service Mossad is suspected of carrying out the assassination. They are also thought to be behind the deaths of five Iranian nuclear scientists and the head of the Iranian ballistic missile program since 2007.
Since Iran has been accused of cyber attacks against Western targets, and allegedly been the target of attacks by the U.S. on Iranian nuclear facilities’ computer systems, America is a suspect as well.
Ahmadi, the commander of Iran’s Cyber War Headquarters, was found in the town of Karaj, northwest of the capital Tehran. Iran denies it was an assassination, according to the Jerusalem Post, as they lack evidence to prove the media’s assumptions.
Originally published on November 5, 2013.