Ac­tivist calls on group to present proof

7 Days in Dubai - - GLOBAL NEWS -

The top com­man­der of Le­banon’s mil­i­tant Hezbol­lah was killed in Syria by in­sur­gent shelling, Hezbol­lah said yes­ter­day, vow­ing to con­tinue its in­volve­ment in Syria’s civil war.

Mustafa Badred­dine be­came the high­est rank­ing ca­su­alty for Hezbol­lah since the group joined Syria’s civil four years ago.

The group said the blast that killed Mustafa Badred­dine near the Da­m­as­cus In­ter­na­tional Air­port was caused by ar­tillery shelling by “tak­firi” groups, a term Hezbol­lah uses to re­fer to Sunni ex­trem­ists.

The area on the south­ern edge of the Syr­ian cap­i­tal is known to host po­si­tions of sev­eral mil­i­tant groups in­clud­ing Al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, the Nusra Front.

Rami Ab­dur­rah­man, who heads the Bri­tain-based Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights, said that ac­cord­ing to his network of ac­tivists in the area on the ground, there has been no shelling in the air­port area since Wed­nes­day.

“Hezbol­lah must come for­ward with proof about the death of its com­man­der,” Ab­dur­rah­man said by tele­phone.

Hezbol­lah’s state­ment said Badred­dine’s killing will only boost the group’s “will and in­ten­tion to con­tinue fight­ing these crim­i­nal gangs un­til they are de­feated”.

It added that de­feat­ing in­sur­gent groups in Syria was “the wish” of Badred­dine, who was also known among the group’s ranks as Zul­fiqar.

Hezbol­lah’s state­ments hinted that the group will con­tinue to be deeply in­volved in the con­flict next door that has killed more than 250,000 people since 2011, in­clud­ing more than 1,000 Hezbol­lah fight­ers. “It is the same bat­tle against the Amer­i­canZion­ist project that the ter­ror­ists are spear­head­ing,” Hezbol­lah’s state­ment said.

Hezbol­lah has sent thou­sands of fight­ers to Syria to back Pres­i­dent Bashar Al As­sad’s gov­ern­ment against mil­i­tants try­ing to re­move him from power.

The group an­nounced Badred­dine’s death with­out say­ing when the at­tack oc­curred. It said at the time that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion has been launched into the cause of the blast.

The 55-year-old Badred­dine had di­rected Hezbol­lah’s op­er­a­tions in Syria since its fight­ers joined Al As­sad’s forces in 2012, the group’s big­gest-ever mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion out­side of Le­banon. Thou­sands of guer­ril­las fight­ing along­side Syria’s mil­i­tary were cru­cial to tip­ping the bat­tle­field in the gov­ern­ment’s favour on mul­ti­ple fronts.

With Badred­dine’s death, Hezbol­lah is likely to rely on a younger gen­er­a­tion of com­man­ders, mov­ing away from the veter­ans who came of age dur­ing Le­banon’s 1975-1990 civil war or dur­ing Hezbol­lah’s 18-year war against Is­rael’s oc­cu­pa­tion of south­ern Le­banon.

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