Hezbollah says insurgents behind commander death
Mustafa Badreddine was indicted by the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon in the 2005 killing of statesman Rafiq al-Hariri
Hezbollah said on Saturday its top military commander Mustafa Badreddine was killed by artillery shells fired by insurgents near Syria's Damascus airport.
Badreddine, 55, was one of the highest ranking officials in the group, and assessed by the US government to be responsible for Hezbollah’s military operations in Syria, where it is fighting alongside the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"Investigations have showed that the explosion, which targeted one of our bases near Damascus International Airport, and which led to the martyrdom of commander Mustafa Badreddine, was the result of artillery bombardment carried out by takfiri groups in the area," Hezbollah's statement said.
The Lebanese TV station al-Mayadeen earlier reported Badreddine had been killed in an Israeli air strike in Syria.
Hezbollah deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem speaking at Badreddine’s funeral, vowed that the group would continue on the “path” of Badreddine, the most senior Hezbollah commander killed since 2008.
A US Department of the Treasury statement detailing sanctions against Badreddine last year said he was assessed to be responsible for the group’s military operations in Syria since 2011, and he had accompanied Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah during strategic coordination meetings with Assad in Damascus.
Badreddine, a brother-in-law of the late Hezbollah military commander, Imad Moughniyah, was indicted by the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon in the 2005 killing of statesman Rafiq al-Hariri.
He was sentenced to death in Kuwait for his role in bomb attacks there in 1983. He escaped from prison in Kuwait after Iraq, under the leadership of Saddam Hussein, invaded the country in 1990.
For years, Badreddine masterminded military operations against Israel from Lebanon and overseas and managed to escape capture by Arab and Western governments by operating clandestinely.