Top Hezbollah military commander killed by 'major explosion' in Syria

Mustafa Amine Badreddine was supervising the Shia militant group's involvement in the Syrian civil war

Samuel Osborne
Friday 13 May 2016 11:09
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Top Hezbollah commander Mustafa Badreddine killed in Syria – group confirms

Hezbollah's top military commander has been killed in an explosion in the Syrian capital of Damascus, the Shia militant group has confirmed.

Mustafa Amine Badreddine, 55, was supervising the group's involvement in the Syrian civil war, where it has fought alongside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces against militant groups trying to remove him from power.

The Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen TV, which is close to the group, said Badreddine was killed in an Israeli air strike, but later removed the report.

Hezbollah said it was investigating whether a "missile or artillery strike" was responsible.

Mustafa Amine Badreddine, one of four men wanted for the assassination of Lebanon's assassinated former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, is shown in this undated handout picture released at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon website 29 July, 2011

Announcing his death, Hezbollah said: "A few months ago, he stated: I will not come back from Syria, unless a martyr or carrying the banner of victory.

"He's the great Jihadi leader Mustafa [Badreddine]. And here he is today a martyr wrapped in the banner of victory."

The statement added: "Early information from the investigation shows that a strong explosion targeted one of our centers near the Damascus International Airport leading to the martyrdom of brother commander Mustafa Badreddine and wounded several others."

Badreddine, nicknamed Zul Fikar after the sword of Imam Ali, the Prophet Muhammad's cousin and a revered figure in Shia Islam, was accused of leading a cell allegedly responsible for the murder of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in a 2005 suicide bombing.

He was being tried in absentia along with four others for the death of Mr Hariri and 22 others. The trial is ongoing near The Hague, Netherlands.

His death is the biggest blow to the militant group since the 2008 assassination of his predecessor, Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed in a bomb attack in Damascus.

Following Mughniyeh's death, Badreddine became Hezbollah's top military commander.

Hezbollah Loses 10 Fighters In Sunday Clashes With Nusra: Source

Badreddine was also suspected of involvement in the 1983 bombings of the US and French embassies in Kuwait that killed five people.

He was detained in Kuwait and imprisoned for years until Saddam Hussein's army invaded the country and opened the doors of its prisons in 1990.

There was no immediate comment from Israel.

Over the last 30 years, Israel has killed some of Hezbollah's top leaders.

In 1992, Israeli helicopter gunships ambushed the motorcade of Sayyed Abbas Musawi, killing him, his wife, 5-year-old son and four bodyguards.

Eight years later, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Ragheb Harb was gunned down in South Lebanon.

Hezbollah plans to hold a mourning ceremony for Badreddine.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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