Damascus: Blast kills senior Hizbullah member; Israel denies involvement
A blast late Tuesday destroyed a car in a residential neighborhood of Damascus, killing a senior military commander of the Lebanese Shi'ite movement Hizbullah, the movement confirmed in a statement. “With all pride we declare a great jihadist leader of the Islamic resistance in Lebanon joining the martyrs…the brother commander hajj Imad Mughniyeh became a martyr at the hands of the Zionist Israelis,” said Wednesday's statement carried on Hizbullah's Al Manar TV. Israeli Prime Minister's Office initially declined to comment, but later issued a statement denying Israeli involvement. "Israel rejects the attempt by terror groups to attribute to it any involvement in this incident," read the statement. "We have nothing further to add."
The huge blast shattered windows of nearby buildings, witnesses said. Security forces immediately cordoned off the area in the upscale Kafar Soussa neighborhood and removed the destroyed car. "Scores of police and intelligence officers rushed to the site," a local resident told Reuters. Security officials at the scene refused to comment.
The Shiite party called on its followers to join a funeral procession for Mughniyeh in Beirut's southern suburbs on Thursday.
The cause of the explosion and the intended target was not immediately clear, as there are no government buildings located in the mostly residential Kafar Soussa district. However, as mentioned hours after the explosion Hizbullah confirmed the death of Mughniyeh. In the past, Mughniyeh was described as the head of its security section, a senior intelligence official and as a founder of Hizbullah.
He has been in hiding for years and was among the fugitives indicted in the United States for the 1985 hijacking of a TWA airliner in which a U.S. Navy diver was killed. He was also suspected of masterminding attacks that killed more than 260 Americans in Lebanon in the 1980s. Mughniyeh, 45, was also wanted for his suspected role in the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in the Argentinean capital which killed 29 people and for being involved in the planning of a blast at a Buenos Aires Jewish Center two years later that killed 95 people.
It should be mentioned that several officials from the Palestinian Hamas movement were at the scene late Tuesday. The witnesses and Palestinian sources in Syria and Lebanon said the blast was caused by a bomb planted inside the vehicle.