London – Western intelligence sources distrusted Hezbollah’s story of the assassination of its military commander Mustafa Badreddine on May 13 in Damascus, saying that a state – not an extremist group – was behind his killing.
The sources told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that the party that assassinated Badreddine was a country and not a militant group, noting that information received by the sources’ country showed that the explosion that killed the Hezbollah commander was due to a fuel-air bomb, which is usually owned by countries such as the United States, Russia, Iran and Syria.The source also said that Badreddine’s body was “unharmed on the outside but totally distorted on the inside.” This is usually the effect of a fuel-air bomb, the sources added.
While the same sources refused to elaborate on the party behind the assassination, they said that “many wanted to see Badreddine dead.”
Hezbollah accused takfiri and extremist groups of the assassination, while avoiding to point at Israel. The militant group said that Badreddine was killed in a large explosion near Damascus airport. However, none of the Syrian armed factions claimed responsibility of the attack, while several Syrian opposition parties presumed the killing was an internal operation in the wake of the raging conflict between Iran and Russia in Damascus.
Asked whether information on Badreddine’s assassination would be handed over to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), which holds trials for the people accused of assassinating Lebanon’s Former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the sources said that the international tribunal did not use intelligence-based evidence. They also said they were not aware of any previous cooperation between the STL and intelligence services working in the Middle East.
The sources noted that intelligence services had an almost clear image on Hariri’s assassination. However, intelligence-based information could not be used by the Tribunal, as the latter relied only on sensible evidence, they added.
In an oral decision issued on the first of June, the STL Trial Chamber decided that trials would continue pending the receipt of further information from the Lebanese government regarding the death of the accused Mustafa Amine Badreddine. In a press release, the STL said: “The Judges do not believe that sufficient evidence has yet been presented to convince them that the death of Mr. Badreddine has been proved.” It added: “The Trial Chamber noted that the Prosecution has outstanding requests for assistance sent to the government of Lebanon seeking further information relating to what happened to Mr. Badreddine and is awaiting responses.”
Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Hezbollah’s story on Badreddine’s assassination was incorrect, denying any RPG attack near Damascus airport on the days that preceded the announcement of his death.
Badreddine joined around 17 other Hezbollah officials who were killed in Syria since the start of war in 2011.
Badreddine had several nicknames, including “Hezbollah’s man in Syria.” Some called him Qasem Soleimani the Second and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Prosecutor described him as a “ghost,” a shadowy figure.