Speculation regarding the assassination of Hassan al-Laqqis on Thursday centered
around Israel and radical Sunni groups linked with the rebels in
While a previously unknown group, Ahrar al-Sunna Baalbek Brigade,
claimed responsibility for the attack and Israel denied any involvement, there
was evidence for Hezbollah to point the finger at Israel.
For one thing,
the professional way the hit was carried out is similar to methods used by
Israel in the past.
Sunni Islamists tend to make their attacks messier
and use bombs that tend to kill innocent bystanders.
Also, it cannot be
ruled out out that the Baalbek Brigade is a fiction, created by Israel or some other actor
Hezbollah MP Kamel al-Rifai implied this when he said the group
that claimed the attack did not really exist.
“The Free Sunnis of Baalbek
Brigade which claimed responsibility for the assassination of Hezbollah official
Hassan Laqqis is virtual and does not exist in Baalbek,” Rifai said on Wednesday
in an interview with Al-Markaziyya news agency and quoted by the NOW Lebanon
Referring to Laqqis, Matthew Levitt, author of the recent book,
Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God and a senior fellow
and director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Stein Program on
Counter-terrorism and Intelligence, told The Jerusalem Post that there is “no
question, he is important.”
In his book, Levitt writes about Laqqis and
how he served as Hezbollah’s chief military procurement officer.
describes how procurement activities in Canada were partially funded by money
sent from Laqqis in Lebanon.
In this way, Hezbollah sought night vision
goggles, GPS systems, metal detection equipment, cameras, advanced aircraft
analysis and design software, and other computer accessories, said
Laqqis was a Hezbollah commander who fought in
Syria’s civil war.
“By all indications, whoever killed Hassan Laqqis did
so in retaliation for Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria. The perpetrators
probably would have preferred to kill Hassan Nasrallah instead, but the security
ring around him is much greater,” said Mordechai Kedar, director of the Center
for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation) and a research
associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan
“The Sunni jihadists fighting in Syria against President
Bashar Assad, Iran, Iraqi Shi’ites and Hezbollah, promised long ago that they
would kill the ‘rat of Damascus’ and the ‘rat of Beirut.’” In this case, it
seems they were able to get the “friend of the rat,” said Kedar.
follows a long line of Hezbollah members who have lost their lives in Lebanon
because of the war in Syria, he said.
While Kedar does not rule out that
another party could have been behind the assassination, “in the current
situation, it seems that the background was painted in Syrian Sunni
Tony Badran, a columnist for the Beirut-based website NOW Lebanon
and a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the
Post that while both Sunni groups and Israel would benefit from the
assassination, the available evidence at this point leads him to point the
finger more in Israel’s direction.
Laqqis was involved in the group’s
drone program since the 1990s and tried to procure other kinds of technology for
Hezbollah, Badran said.
While it is true that the radical Sunni groups
have good intelligence on Hezbollah, “the nature of the target makes me wonder,”
Badran also makes a possible connection between this
assassination and that of other important figures involved in the shadowy world
of covert Hezbollah-Iran arms procurement.
There was Hezbollah’s operations head, Imad Mughniyeh, the very capable military man who linked Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran.
He was assassinated by a car bomb in central Damascus in 2008.
Levitt notes how there seems to have been ties between him and Laqqis.
Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, who was assassinated
in Dubai in January 2010, played a key role in developing ties with the Iranian
Revolutionary Guards Quds Force.
“Mabhouh was also in charge of logistics and was
responsible for procuring rockets from Iran to Gaza through Sudan and Egypt,”
wrote Badran in an article for NOW Lebanon.
And in November 2011, a mysterious explosion killed
Revolutionary Guards commander, General Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam, who was working
on creating Hezbollah missile units, according to a report on the Al-Arabiya
Moghaddam was an engineer, reportedly trained in China
and North Korea, who was an important person in Iran’s ballistic missile