The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights rejected Hezbollah’s accusation that the assassination of its prominent commander Mustafa Badreddine in Damascus airport had been carried out by “takfiri” (accusers of infidelity) rebel groups. The pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat on Sunday cited several Syrian opposition members who speculated that Badreddine’s death was an “inside job that reflects the conflict between the Iranian and Russian forces in Damascus.”
Mustafa Badreddine was a military leader of Hezbollah and both the cousin and brother-in-law of Imad Mugniyah, a senior member of Lebanon’s Islamic Jihad Organization and Hezbollah who was killed in 2008 by a car bomb blast around in Damascus. Until 1982, Badreddine, like Mugniyeh, was part of the PLO Force 17. Later they both joined Hezbollah. Mughniyeh was implicated in the 1990s bombing of the Jewish center in Argentina, and was the architect of Hezbollah’s guerrilla defense in its 2006 war with Israel. Badreddine became military commander in Hezbollah in 2008 after his brother-in-law’s death.
In June 2011 Badreddine was indicted for charges related to the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The accusations against him and three other Hezbollah members were based on mobile phone evidence. Hezbollah chief Hasan Nasrallah threatened the members of the tribunal, and Badreddine and the others fled to Iran. The Special Tribune decided to try Badreddine in absentia, but is yet to get around to doing it.
It is possible that Badreddine was taken out by his own people for sheer incompetence. He led Hezbollah’s forces in Syria, fighting on the side of the Assad government, alongside Hezbollah’s patron, Iran. The Hezbollah contingency in Syria has suffered severe casualties, with an estimated 1,000 dead being shipped back to Lebanon in coffins, among them Jihad Mughniyeh, Imad’s son.
At Badreddine’s funeral last week, Nasrallah said: “they would soon announce conclusions about the perpetrators.”
Asharq al-Awsat said the rebel factions were camped some 7 miles away from Damascus airport and did not have the capabilities to kill Badreddine.