Hezbollah suffers military blow as top commander killed in Syria blast

The top military commander of Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group has been killed in an an explosion in the Syrian capital of Damascus. The death of Mustafa Badreddine is being seen as a major blow to the Shiite group after it joined Syrian president Bashar Assad’s forces battling rebels trying to prise him from power. Several others were wounded in the blast although it was not known if it was an airstrike or the result of artillery shelling. No one has claimed responsibility although fingers were pointed at Israel, which often targets Hezbollah forces.

He said months ago that he would not return from Syria except as a martyr or carrying the flag of victory

Hezbollah statement

Badreddine was one of the highest ranking officials in Hezbollah, regarded by Israel and some in the West as a terrorist group. The 55-year-old, sentenced to death in Kuwait for his role in bomb attacks there in 1983, was the fifth commander the group has lost fighting in Syria. Badreddine, dubbed an “untraceable ghost” by prosecutors, was also being tried in absentia in The Hague for his alleged involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005. Hezbollah said he was a “great jihadi leader” and that he had joined “the convoy of martyrs” including his friend, brother-in-law and predecessor Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed in 2008.