BBC World News & Al Jazeera – 2016-05-15 13:40:23
Hezbollah killing: Thousands
Mourn Badreddine at Beirut Funeral
BBC World News
(May 13, 2016) — Thousands of people have attended the funeral in Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, of top Hezbollah military commander Mustafa Amine Badreddine.
He died in an explosion near Damascus airport, the Lebanon-based group said, adding it would announce “within hours” its report into the killing. Hezbollah has sent thousands of troops to support Syria’s President Assad.
In 2015, the US said that Badreddine was behind all Hezbollah’s military operations in Syria since 2011. He was also charged with leading the assassination of former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri in Beirut in 2005.
Images from the funeral showed the coffin being carried among a mass of supporters in the southern suburbs of Beirut, some of them chanting “Death to America” and Shia slogans.
The BBC’s Quentin Sommerville, in the capital, says some at the funeral blamed Israel for the killing, with one mourner saying: “Hezbollah has many spies.” Another said that without Badreddine, “Daesh [another name for so-called Islamic State] would be here”.
What do we know of the killing?
An initial report by Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen TV said that Badreddine, 55, had died in an Israeli air strike. But a later statement by Hezbollah on al-Manar’s website did not mention Israel.
Israel’s government traditionally refuses to comment on such deaths and has done so again. But Israel has been accused by Hezbollah of killing a number of its fighters in Syria since the conflict began.
The group was established in the wake of the Israeli occupation of Lebanon in the early 1980s, and has called for the “obliteration” of Israel.
Asked who might have carried out the attack, Hezbollah deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem said that, within hours “we will announce in detail the cause of the explosion and the party responsible for it”, adding there were clear indications of those responsible.
One Hezbollah MP in Lebanon, Nawar al-Saheli, said: “This is an open war and we should not pre-empt the investigation but certainly Israel is behind this. The resistance will carry out its duties at the appropriate time.”
Yaakov Amidror, a former national security adviser to Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said: “We don’t know if Israel is responsible for this. Remember that those operating in Syria today have a lot of haters without Israel. “But from Israel’s view, the more people with experience, like Badreddine, who disappear from the wanted list, the better.”
However, any of the armed groups seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad might have have sought to kill the man co-ordinating Hezbollah military activities.
Are there other versions of his death?
A number of Twitter accounts supporting Syrian rebel groups and the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front said Badreddine was killed in a battle in Khan Touman, southern Aleppo, rather than in Damascus.
Khan Touman was captured by a coalition of groups including al-Nusra Front last week and has been subject to heavy shelling in recent days. No official sources have commented on the reports.
What is Badreddine’s background?
Born in 1961, Badreddine 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.
An indictment from the ongoing Special Tribunal for Lebanon in The Hague 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.
Was he involved in the killing of Hariri?
Badreddine was tried in absentia by the Hague tribunal over the killing of Rafik 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.
One mourner at the funeral asked about Badreddine’s involvement said simply “lies”.
What is Hezbollah doing in Syria?
The Lebanese Shia Islamist movement has played a major role in helping Iran, its main military and financial backer, to prop up the government of President Assad since the uprising erupted in 2011.
Thousands of Hezbollah fighters are assisting government forces on battlefields across Syria, particularly those near the Lebanese border, and hundreds are believed to have been killed.
Obituary: Hezbollah Military
Commander Mustafa Badreddine
Mustafa Amine Badreddine, who has been killed in Syria, was a top Hezbollah military commander.
His death is seen as the biggest blow to the Lebanese Shia Islamist movement since the assassination of its military chief Imad Mughniyeh — Badreddine’s cousin and brother-in-law — in 2008.
The US said last year that Badreddine had been responsible since 2011 for Hezbollah’s military operations in Syria, where the group has helped its main backer Iran prop up President Bashar al-Assad.
Thousands of Hezbollah members are fighting alongside Syrian government forces on battlefields across the country and hundreds have been killed.
Badreddine, known for his expertise in explosives, reportedly sat on Hezbollah’s Shura Council and served as an adviser to the group’s secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, accompanying him on visits to Damascus.
He was also the most prominent of five men linked to Hezbollah being tried in absentia by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) at The Hague, accused of murdering former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005.
Nicknamed “Dhu al-Fiqar”, after the legendary sword of Imam Ali, Badreddine was born in 1961 in the southern Beirut suburb of Ghobeiry.
Little is known about Badreddine’s early years, but Hezbollah said he had taken part in operations by its military wing, the Islamic Resistance, since 1982.
One Hezbollah member is reported to have told Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) agents during an interrogation that Mughniyeh had been Badreddine’s “teacher in terrorism”.
The pair are alleged to have worked together on the October 1983 bombing of the US Marine Corps barracks in Beirut that killed 241 personnel.
The following year, a court in Kuwait sentenced a 23-year-old man named Elias Fouad Saab to death after convicting him in connection with the December 1983 suicide car bomb attacks on the US and French embassies there, which were blamed on Hezbollah.
In an effort to free Saab and the 16 other Lebanese and Iraqis convicted alongside him, Mughniyeh is alleged to have organised the hijackings of Kuwaiti airliners, a kidnapping and an attempted assassination of the emir of Kuwait.
Saab eventually escaped from prison when Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 and was reportedly smuggled out of the country by members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. According to STL prosecutors, Elias Fouad Saab was a known alias of Mr Badreddine.
Badreddine is subsequently believed to have facilitated attacks against the Israeli military and, after the US-led invasion in 2003, American and British troops in Iraq.
He is also alleged to have taken “overall control” of the suicide car bomb attack that killed Rafik Hariri and 21 others in Beirut in February 2005.
The STL indictment, issued in 2011, says analysis of mobile phone records shows that between 1 January 2005 and 14 February 2005, Badreddine was in contact 59 times with Salim Jamil Ayyash, a fellow defendant who prosecutors say co-ordinated the assassination team.
Badreddine is alleged to have issued the final authorisation for the attack just under an hour before it happened, having earlier spoken by phone with Mughniyeh.
STL prosecutors also revealed that there were almost no official records relating to Badreddine, who they said passed “as an unrecognisable and untraceable ghost throughout Lebanon, leaving no footprint”.
The prosecutors said Badreddine achieved this by using pseudonyms, as he appeared to do in Kuwait. While planning the bombing, they alleged, he presented himself as Sami Issa — the registered owner of three jewellery shops, an apartment in Jounieh and a motor boat, who said he was from a Christian village. Hezbollah has denied any involvement in the Hariri assassination.
After Mughniyeh was killed in a car bombing in Damascus in 2008 — reportedly the result of a joint operation by Israel’s Mossad spy agency and the US Central Intelligence Agency — Badreddine is believed to have taken over most of his duties as commander of Hezbollah’s military wing.
Badreddine was himself targeted for assassination in January 2015, when a suspected Israeli air strike in the Syrian Golan Heights killed six Hezbollah fighters, including Mughniyeh’s son Jihad and an Iranian Revolutionary Guards general, the New York Times reported, citing an intelligence operative in the region. Badreddine had dropped out of the gathering at the last minute, it said.
Hezbollah said Badreddine was killed on 10 May when “a strong explosion targeted one of our centres near the Damascus International Airport”. The group said it was investigating the nature of the blast.
Beirut-based al-Mayadeen TV, which has close contacts with the group, initially said Badreddine was killed in an Israeli air strike but later removed the report. The Israeli government has neither denied nor confirmed involvement.
Hezbollah: Mustafa Badreddine killed by Fire from Rebel Shelling
Al Jazeera and agencies
(May 13, 2016) — Hezbollah has said its top military commander Mustafa Badreddine died as a result of artillery shelling by a Sunni armed group in Damascus.
The Lebanese Shia group announced Badreddine’s death on Friday and a military funeral was held for him on the same day in southern Beirut.
“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,” Hezbollah said in a statement.
“Takfiri” is a word used by the group to refer to armed Sunni groups.
Hezbollah earlier said it was working to “define the nature of the explosion and its cause, and whether it was the result of an air strike, or missile [attack] or artillery”.
Badreddine, 55, was one of the highest ranking officials in the group, and believed to be responsible for its operations in Syria, where thousands of its members are fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from Beirut, said Badreddine was the most senior Hezbollah commander to have been killed in Syria since the conflict began.
“Hezbollah has suffered heavy losses in Syria, with some sources estimating that at least 1,200 fighters have died since the group started its involvement in the war,” she said.
“Hezbollah’s military intervention in Syria caused a divide in Lebanon. Some say it was totally wrong as it exposed Lebanon to threats. However, Hezbollah sees this as an existential decision because the Syrian government provides a lifeline to the group.”
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