Israel denies claims of 'professional' murder of Hezbollah commander Hassan al-Laqqis outside his Beirut home

Israel denies involvement in killing

Hezbollah has blamed Israel for the overnight death of one of its commanders outside his Beirut home.

The Shi'ite militant group said Hassan al-Laqqis was "professionally" murdered at around midnight in the southern Hadath district of the Lebanese capital.

In a statement, Hezbollah said: "The Israeli enemy tried to get to our martyr brother several times, in more than one location, but these attempts failed until this repugnant assassination".

The statement went on to say: "Israel would “bear full responsibility and all the consequences for this heinous crime”.

Israel denied involvement in the killing, with foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor saying: "This has strictly nothing to do Israel... Hezbollah has made a fool of itself in the past with these automatic and groundless accusations against Israel ... If they are looking for explanations as to what is happening to them, they should examine their own actions"

A previously unknown group - the Ahrar al-Sunna Baalbek brigade - has subsequently posted a message on Twitter taking responsibility for the attack.

According to Reuters, the group's name suggested it had Lebanese Sunni Muslim links.

Hezbollah, which fought a 34-day war with Israel in 2006, has sent fighters into neighbouring Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad against mainly Sunni Muslim rebels, an intervention which has helped fuel sectarian tension in Lebanon.

A source close to Hezbollah said Laqqis was a military commander who had taken part in battles in Syria. He said he had been shot in the head with a silenced gun while in his car, in what he described as a professional operation.

Footage from the scene broadcast by Hezbollah's Al Manar television showed two bullet marks in a wall and muddy footprints it said had been left by possibly more than one assailant.

Hezbollah described Laqqis, who will be buried in the Bekaa Valley town of Baalbek later today, as “one of the leaders of the Islamic resistance” against Israel who had been frequently targeted by the Jewish state.

He had been with Hezbollah since its first days in the 1980s, when it was set up with Iranian support to fight Israeli troops occupying south Lebanon, and his son was killed in the 2006 war, Hezbollah said in a statement.

The open role of Hezbollah fighters in the Syrian civil war, combined with a steady flow of Lebanese Sunnis joining the anti-Assad rebels, has fuelled sectarian strife in Lebanon.

Car bombs killed dozens of people in Beirut in August and a twin suicide attack on the Beirut embassy of Hezbollah's patron Iran killed at least 25 people last month.

An Iranian foreign ministry spokeswoman blamed Israel for that attack, but responsibility was claimed by a Lebanon-based al Qaeda-linked group, the Abdullah Azzam brigades.

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said he believed the group had support from Saudi Arabia, Iran's main regional rival whose backing for Assad's foes has pushed it deeper into a proxy conflict in Syria against Tehran.

Abdullah Azzam “is not a fictitious name,” Nasrallah said in an interview broadcast on Lebanese television on Tuesday night. “This group exists ... It has its leadership ... and I am convinced it is linked to Saudi intelligence,” he said.

“Saudi Arabia is the one who runs these kinds of groups in several places in the world.”

Additional reporting Reuters

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
businessUber, Snapchat and Facebook founders among those on the 2015 Forbes Billionaire List
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
News
Jihadi John
newsMonikers like 'Jihadi John' make the grim sound glamorous
News
music
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Ashdown Group: PeopleSoft Developer - London - £45k

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: PeopleSoft Application Support & Development ...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003