This undated photo released by the Hezbollah Media Relation Office on Wednesday shows Hassan al-Laqis.
BEIRUT (AP) - Gunmen shot dead a senior Hezbollah commander outside
his home Wednesday in southern Beirut, an attack that the Iranian-backed
group quickly blamed on arch-enemy Israel. Israeli officials denied any
Hezbollah ceremoniously announced the death of
Hassan al-Laqis and described him as one of the founding members of the
group, suggesting he was a high-level commander close to the Shiite
An official close to Hezbollah said al-Laqis
held some of the group's most sensitive portfolios and was close to the
group's leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.
His shooting death comes
as Lebanon faces increasing sectarian violence pouring over from the
civil war in neighboring Syria, where Hezbollah forces fight alongside
President Bashar Assad's troops, angering the mainly Sunni rebels
seeking to oust him. Hezbollah strongholds have been the target of car
bomb attacks and suicide bombers attacked the Iranian Embassy in Beirut
last month, killing 23 people.
Sunni militant groups have claimed
responsibility for those attacks, calling it retaliation for Hezbollah's
involvement in Syria.
Hezbollah said in a statement al-Laqis was killed as he returned home from work around midnight.
brother martyr Hassan al-Laqis spent his youth and all his life in this
honorable resistance since its inception up until the last moments of
his life," the statement said.
A Lebanese security official and
the official close to Hezbollah said assailants shot al-Laqis with a
pistol equipped with a silencer at close range after he parked his car
in the parking garage on the ground floor of the residential building
where he lived in the Hadath neighborhood, some two miles southwest of
He was struck by five bullets in the head and neck, the
Lebanese official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with
regulations. The official close to Hezbollah spoke on condition of
anonymity as he wasn't authorized to speak to journalists.
from the scene broadcast on Hezbollah's al-Manar television station
showed the parking lot stained with muddied footprints that led to a
nearby small olive grove. Yellow police tape blocked off the area.
Al-Laqis was rushed to a nearby hospital but died early Wednesday from his wounds, the officials said.
Lebanese state news agency later published a photograph it identified
as al-Laqis. The image showed a man who appeared to be in his mid-40s,
with neatly cut black hair and a graying close-cropped beard, wearing
beige-and-khaki military clothing.
The Hezbollah statement accused
Israel of being responsible for the killing. It said Israel tried to
kill him several times, but had failed.
"The Israeli enemy is
naturally directly to blame," the statement said. "This enemy must
shoulder complete responsibility and repercussions for this ugly crime
and its repeated targeting of leaders and cadres of the resistance."
Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor denied any Israeli involvement.
has nothing to do with this incident," Palmor said. "These automatic
accusations are an innate reflex with Hezbollah. They don't need
evidence, they don't need facts, they just blame anything on Israel."
Steinitz, Israel's minister of strategic affairs and intelligence,
later told Israel Radio he wouldn't comment on "rumors."
"We are used to this habit that with almost everything there is a tendency first to blame Israel," Steinitz said.
has fought several wars against Israel. Al-Laqis' son died fighting
Israel in the monthlong 2006 war. Israel's spy service has been
suspected of assassinating Hezbollah commanders for more than two
In 1992, Israeli helicopter gunships ambushed the
motorcade of Hezbollah leader Sheik Abbas Musawi, killing him, his wife,
5-year-old son and four bodyguards. Eight years earlier, Hezbollah
leader Sheik Ragheb Harb was gunned down in south Lebanon.
of the biggest blows for the group came in 2008 when Imad Mughniyeh, a
top Hezbollah military commander, was killed by a bomb that ripped
through his car in Damascus.
Nasrallah, the current Hezbollah leader, has rarely appeared in public since the 2006 war.
killing came a half an hour after Nasrallah ended a three-hour
interview with a local television station, in which he accused Saudi
Arabia of being behind the Iranian Embassy bombings.
Check out some of our most read stories from 2013:
#shortyellows: Florida quietly shortened yellow lights
Terrorism Warning: Memo says terrorists practicing dry-runs on Florida flights
Kittens shot: Officer shoots kittens in front of children
Courtroom apology: Woman apologizes for flipping off judge
Weird ice: Strange, giant circles appear on frozen pond
Controversial Club: College student organizes "White Student Union"
CFO Trouble: School administrative chief in trouble over her porn sex blog
Warning Shot Wife: Mother gets 20 years for firing warning shots at abusive husband
Science Arrest: Teen girl arrested over science project explosion
Wait, WHAT?? Dog shoots man in the leg with a handgun
Popular photo galleries:
Faces of Meth: Devastating before and after photos of meth abusers
Travon Martin Shooting: Trayvon Martin crime scene photos and George Zimmerman injury photos
Hooters Winners: Winners of the 2013 Hooters swimsuit pageant
Rejected: Funny Florida license plates rejected by the DMV ***warning graphic***
Deadly sinkhole: Home collapses, man dies in giant sinkhole
Florida Sex Offenders: Look up sex offenders in any Florida neighborhood here
Restaurant Inspections: Look up inspection reports for any Florida restaurant here