Hezbollah says commander killed in Beirut, blames Israel

Hezbollah says commander killed in Beirut, blames Israel
A man puts a carpet on the back of a car near the crime scene where commander Hasan al-Laqqis was killed in the southern Hadath district in Beirut December 4, 2013.

BEIRUT - Lebanon's Shi'ite militant Hezbollah group said on Wednesday one of its commanders was killed outside his Beirut home in an overnight attack it blamed on Israel.

Israel denied any role in the killing of Hassan al-Laqqis, which Hezbollah said took place at around midnight in the southern Hadath district of the Lebanese capital.

A previously unknown group, Ahrar al-Sunna Baalbek brigade, claimed responsibility for the attack in a message on Twitter. The group's name suggested it had Lebanese Sunni Muslim links.

Hezbollah, which fought a 34-day war with Israel in 2006, has sent fighters into neighbouring Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad against mainly Sunni Muslim rebels, an intervention which has helped fuel sectarian tension in Lebanon.

A source close to Hezbollah said Laqqis was a military commander who had taken part in battles in Syria. He said he had been shot in the head with a silenced gun while in his car, in what he described as a professional operation.

Footage from the scene broadcast by Hezbollah's Al Manar television on Wednesday showed two bullet marks in a wall and muddy footprints it said had been left by possibly more than one assailant.

Hezbollah described Laqqis, who will be buried in the Bekaa Valley town of Baalbek later in the day, as "one of the leaders of the Islamic resistance" against Israel who had been frequently targeted by the Jewish state.

He had been with Hezbollah since its first days in the 1980s, when it was set up with Iranian support to fight Israeli troops occupying south Lebanon, and his son was killed in the 2006 war, Hezbollah said in a statement.

"The Israeli enemy tried to get to our martyr brother several times, in more than one location, but these attempts failed until this repugnant assassination," it said.

Israel would "bear full responsibility and all the consequences for this heinous crime", it said.

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