Hezbollah military leader Mustafa Badr Al Din. Image from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s website.
Yesterday the US Treasury Department added both Hezbollah’s military leader and the chief of its External Security Organization to the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists.
Mustafa Badr Al Din, Hezbollah’s military leader, and Talal Hamiyah, the chief of its External Security Organization, were added to the US terror list. The head of Hezbollah, Hasan Nasrallah, was also sanctioned yesterday, for “enabling the regime to carry out its bloody campaign against the Syrian people,” the Treasury Department said in a press release. Nasrallah was added to the list of Specially Designated Terrorists in 1995.
Al Din, who is also known as Mustafa Amine Badreddine, “is believed to have replaced his cousin, Imad Mugniyah, as Hezbollah’s top militant commander,” Treasury said.
Mugniyah, who was killed in a car bombing in Damascus, Syria in February 2008, was behind multiple terror attacks against the US, Israel, and other nations, including the 1983 Beirut suicide attacks which killed 241 US Marines and 58 French paratroopers. Mugniyah also helped train Iraqi Shia terror groups, including the Mahdi Army, to organize and attack US and Iraqi security forces. One of his cohorts, Musa Ali Daqdug, was captured by US forces in 2007, and subsequently released at the end of 2011. Mugniyah was also responsible for numerous other terror attacks, as well as coordinating and commanding Hezbollah’s military operation against the Israeli state in 2006. Israel failed to achieve its goal of dismantling Hezbollah during the one-month-long war.
Al Din was behind the car bombing in February 2005 that killed Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 21 other people, according to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which released its report in June 2011. More than 2,000 pounds of TNT were used in the blast that targeted Hariri’s motorcade as it passed by the St. George Hotel in the capital of Beirut. Also charged in Hariri’s murder are Hezbollah operatives Salim Jamil Ayyash, Hussein Hassan Oneissi, and Assad Hassan Sabra.
Nasrallah rejected the indictment of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Instead he called the Special Tribunal an Israeli plot and said the four operatives would never be arrested.
“They cannot find them or arrest them in 30 days or 60 days, or in a year, two years, 30 years or 300 years,” Nasrallah said, according to the BBC. “What will happen is a trial in absentia, a trial in which the verdict has already been reached.”
Hezbollah dominates Lebanon’s government, and the group has crushed all attempts to disarm it or rein in its power. The US continues to provide hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Lebanon despite Hezbollah’s role in the government. Hezbollah is listed by the US as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
Hamiyah leads “Hezbollah’s External Security Organization (ESO), which maintains organized cells worldwide,” Treasury stated. “The ESO is the Hezbollah element responsible for the planning, coordination, and execution of terrorist attacks outside of Lebanon.”
The Australian government, which along with the United Kingdom and New Zealand has designated Hezbollah’s External Security Organization as a terror group, described it as “one of the best organized terrorist groups in the world.”
The External Security Organization was founded by Mugniyah and controlled by him up until his death in February 2008. The Hezbollah organization executed the March 1992 bombing that killed 29 people and destroyed the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Additionally, the ESO conducted the July 1994 car bombing that killed 85 people at the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association in Buenos Aires. Other plots, including one that was disrupted in Thailand this year, and another in Baku, Azerbaijan, in 2008, are thought also to have been planned by the ESO.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.