Top Hezbollah commander killed in Syria

Adnan Badreddine, left, brother of top Hezbollah commander Mustafa Badreddine, grieves at his brother's picture in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, May 13, 2016.Image copyright
AP

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Mustafa Amine Badreddine’s brother Adnan (L) paid his tribute in southern Beirut

The man believed to be Hezbollah’s most senior military commander in Syria’s war has been killed in Damascus.

Mustafa Amine Badreddine died in a large explosion near Damascus airport, the Lebanon-based militant group said in a statement on its al-Manar website.

Badreddine is charged with leading the assassination of former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri in Beirut in 2005.

Hezbollah supports Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and has sent thousands of fighters into Syria.

The US treasury, which imposed sanctions on Badreddine last July, said at the time he was “responsible for Hezbollah’s military operations in Syria since 2011, including the movement of Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon to Syria, in support of the Syrian regime”.

Profile: Lebanon’s Hezbollah

Who stands accused of Hariri killing?

Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen TV had earlier said that Badreddine, 55, died in an Israeli air strike. Israel has not commented on the claim.

Announcing Badreddine’s death, Hezbollah said in an initial statement: “He took part in most of the operations of the Islamic Resistance since 1982,” referring to the group’s military wing.

The second statement, on al-Manar’s website, said: “The investigation will work on determining the nature of the explosion and its causes and whether it was a result of an air, missile or artillery attack.

“We will announce further results of the investigations soon.”

Al-Manar said he would be buried in Beirut on Friday afternoon.

Image copyright
AFP/Hezbollah media office

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Mustafa Amine Badreddine has been involved in Hezbollah military operations for years

Image copyright
Reuters

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Badreddine was on a US sanctions list

Born in 1961, he is believed to have been a senior figure in Hezbollah’s military wing.

He was a cousin and brother-in-law of Imad Mughniyeh, who was the military wing’s chief until his assassination by car bomb in Damascus in 2008.

According to one report, a Hezbollah member interrogated by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), described Badreddine as “more dangerous” than Mughniyeh, who was “his teacher in terrorism”.

They are alleged to have worked together on the October 1983 bombing of the US Marine Corps barracks in Beirut that killed 241 personnel.

Badreddine is reported to have sat on Hezbollah’s Shura Council and served as an adviser to the group’s overall leader Hassan Nasrallah.

During the Syrian war, Hezbollah and its ally Iran have played a prominent part in supporting the Syrian government.

The group has accused Israel of targeting a number of its fighters in air strikes in Syria.

They include Badreddine’s nephew Jihad Mughniyeh in January 2015, and senior official Samir Qantar, who was once imprisoned over a bomb attack in Israel, in December last year.

Israel has never commented on whether it was involved in the air strikes.

Image copyright
AP

Image caption

Former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri was killed in a huge explosion in Beirut in February 2005

Badreddine is being tried in absentia by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, in The Hague, over the killing of Mr Hariri.

He was indicted on four charges and was said by the tribunal to be “the overall controller of the operation” to kill Mr Hariri.

Three other Hezbollah members also stand accused of their role in the assassination.

The indictment also details Badreddine’s role in bombings in Kuwait in 1983, that targeted the French and US embassies and other facilities, and killed six people.

He was sentenced to death over the attacks, but later escaped from prison.


Who are Hezbollah?

Image copyright
EPA

Image caption

Samir Qantar, whose coffin was draped with a yellow Hezbollah flag, was killed in Syria in December

  • Meaning “The Party of God”, it is a Shia Islamist political, military and social organisation that wields considerable power in Lebanon, after taking part in elections for the first time in 1992
  • It emerged with the help of Iran during the Israeli occupation of Lebanon in the early 1980s
  • Its ideological roots stretch back to the Shia Islamic revival in Lebanon in the 1960s and ’70s
  • Hezbollah announced its establishment in 1985 by calling for the “obliteration” of Israel, which it said was occupying Muslim lands
  • In 2006, it launched a cross-border attack on Israel, which retaliated with strikes on Hezbollah strongholds during a 34-day war
  • In early 2016, Saudi Arabia led Gulf countries and the Arab League to declare it a terrorist group, accusing it of “hostile acts”

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