Lebanon's militant Hezbollah group said Friday that its top military commander who was supervising its military operations in Syria, Mustafa Badreddine, was killed in an explosion in Damascus, a major blow to the Shiite group, which has played a significant role in the conflict. Badreddine, 55, had been the mastermind of the group's involvement in Syria's civil war since Hezbollah fighters joined the battle on the side of Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces against those trying to remove him from power, according to pro-Hezbollah media. Hezbollah, along with Iran, has been one of Assad's strongest backers, the AP notes.
Hezbollah said several others were wounded in the blast and that it was investigating the nature of the explosion and whether it was the result of an air raid, missile attack, or artillery shelling. It didn't say when the explosion happened. Beirut-based Al Mayadeen TV, which is close to the Lebanese Shiite group, earlier said Badreddine was killed in an Israeli airstrike but later removed the report. The death of Badreddine—who was one of four people being tried in absentia for the 2005 murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri—is the biggest blow to the militant group since the 2008 assassination of his predecessor, Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed in a bomb attack in Damascus.