Perhaps most famously, he was indicted in the 2005 murder of Lebanon’s charismatic president Rafik Hariri in a suicide bombing that took 22 other lives, as well. Badreddine was being tried in absentia in a Netherlands court when he was killed.
He was a brother-in-law of Imad Moughniyah, Hezbollah’s long-serving military commander, who was killed by a bomb planted in his car in Damascus in 2008 that Hezbollah blamed on Israel, according to Reuters. Badreddine took his place atop the group's military command.
Badreddine had escaped death once before. In 1983, just a year after Hezbollah’s formation, he was arrested and sentenced to death in Kuwait for a string of bombings — including attacks on the U.S. and French embassies that killed five — which were thought to be in retribution for Kuwait’s support and the West’s support for Iraq in its war against the group’s longtime ally, Iran. His sentence was never carried out, and when Saddam Hussein’s army stormed Kuwait in 1990, it inadvertently freed most of the country’s prisoners, including Badreddine.
According to the Associated Press, he was known as an expert in explosives and developed a trademark technique that added gas to increase the power of sophisticated explosives. He was sanctioned by the U.S. government in 2012 for his role in Syria.
He was a man who moved in the shadows and who rarely attached his name to any of his earthly possessions.
Official transcripts released by the U.N.-backed tribunal investigating Hariri’s assassination reveal juicy personal details about a man who is otherwise was known to the public through just a few extant photographs (two in this article). According to the transcripts, Badreddine owned an apartment in an upscale area near the Lebanese capital, where he apparently entertained friends, as well as a boat and an “expensive Mercedes” vehicle — none of which were registered in his name.
“He had several concurrent girlfriends and was seen regularly in restaurants and cafes socializing with his friends,” the prosecution says in the document dated January 2014.
Investigators said they had found almost nothing with his name on it: no driver’s licenses or passports, property, bank accounts, photographs, and no record of his ever having left Lebanon. Prosecutors said that he “passes as an unrecognizable and untraceable ghost throughout Lebanon, leaving no footprint as he passes.”
His death was as mysterious as his life.
Reminiscent of allegations following the assassination of senior Hamas officer Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, Israel was immediately floated as Badreddine’s killer.
Al Mayadeen, a newspaper with links to Hezbollah, reported that he had been killed in an Israeli airstrike, but it soon removed that report.
Israel typically doesn’t comment on its military operations.
Badreddine’s death adds to an already heavy toll from its operations in Syria. Approximately 1,000 of its members have been killed in the conflict, and he is not the first of its senior commanders to be picked off in what appears to be a targeted attack.