Hezbollah commander Mustafa Badreddine has been confirmed dead. Badreedine was killed in a large explosion outside the city of Damascus on May 12, 2016. Initial reports suggest an Israeli airstrike, but other reports say he may have been killed in battle in Southern Aleppo fighting Syrian rebels.
Badreddine became a major player in Hezbollah as his cousin and brother-in-law Imad Mughniyeh was the chief of Hezbollah military wing until his death in 2008. Badreddine and Mughniyeh were suspected orchestrating the 1983 Beirut Marine barracks bombings killing 241 marines, and 58 French servicemen. In December 1983, Badreddine backed by Hezbollah and the Iraqi Shiite group Da’wa launched seven coordinated bombing attacks throughout Kuwait killing 6 and injuring 90. The attacks were targeted the French and American embassies, a Raytheon building, Kuwait airport, and a Kuwaiti petroleum company.
Badreddine was sentenced to death for his role in the Kuwai bombing. His release from prison was part of the ransom demands of hijackers of a TWA flight in 1985 and a Kuwaiti Airways flight in 1988. When Saddam Hussein invaded the country in 1990 igniting the Persian-Gulf war it allowed Badreddine to escape from jail.
According to the BBC a Hezbollah member who was interrogated by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) told them that Badreddine was “more dangerous that Mughniyeh, who was his teacher in terrorism.” Badredine was suspected to be on Hezbollah’s Shura Council and was an assistant to the group’s leader Hasan Nasrallah.
In the 1990s, Badreddine founded “Unit 1800” which would become Hezbollah’s foreign operations unit used for making strikes directly into Israel from Palestine and Gaza. In 2003, he began coordinating with Unit 3800 which was designed to support Iraqi Shia militias including establishing a training academy for Shia to engage American and British forces.
Badreddine was found guilty along with four other conspirators in the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rakif Hariri and 22 others when bombs detonated during his convoy route. Ongoing tribunals in Lebanon and the Hague found that Badredine was the overall mastermind of the attack on Hariri. Speculation is that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Hasan Nasrallah may have conspired to have Hariri killed.
In 2013, The State Department reported Badreddine was rumored to have led Hezbollah ground forces in defeating a group of Syrian rebels near the Syrian-Lebanon border town of Quasyr.
Hussein Haj Hassan a Hezbollah official confirmed that Badreddine was martyred in Syria, and preparations have been underway in Lebanon for Badreddine’s funeral.
Supporters of Syrian rebels groups have taken to twitter claiming that Badreddine was not killed by an Israeli airstrike but was killed during the battle of Khan Touman in Southern Aleppo. Khan Touman was captured by a coalition of groups including the Al Qaeda linked al-Nusra Front and has been the target of heavy shelling.
The loss of Badreddine is a major blow to Hezbollah as he was the group’s senior most military commander behind all of Hezbollah’s operations in Syria since 2011, and responsible for countless terror attacks throughout the Middle East.