Lebanese militia group Hezbollah said on Friday its top commander and "great jihadi leader" Mustafa Badreddine had been killed in a strike in Syria this week. Lebanese and Arab media reports said Badreddine was killed near the Damascus airport in Syria.
While Lebanese TV station al-Mayadeen reported that the Hezbollah leader had been killed in an Israeli attack, the Shiite group backtracked on an earlier claim that Israel was responsible, according to BBC.
"He took part in most of the operations of the Islamic resistance since 1982," Hezbollah reportedly said in a statement. Badreddine was the senior-most member of the organisation to have been killed since the assassination of his brother-in-law Imad Mughniyeh in a joint Mossad/CIA operation in Damascus in 2008.
Badreddine had been indicted by a U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon in the killing of Lebanon's former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri in 2005, and was also given the death sentence in Kuwait for his involvement in the 1983 bomb attacks.
He had also been implicated by the U.S. government as overseeing Hezbollah's military operations in Syria in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"He said a few months ago, 'I will not come back from Syria, unless a martyr or carrying the flag of victory'. He is the top commander Mustafa Badreddine. And he came back today as a martyr," the Shiite group said, according to AFP which cited the Al-Manar TV channel.
Hezbollah reportedly said it will investigate if the explosion that killed Baddredine was from an air strike or a missile attack.