Washington on Tuesday hit out at Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for laying a wreath of flowers on the tomb of slain Hizbullah military commander Imad Mughniyeh during his latest visit to Beirut.
“The United States condemns the decision taken by Zarif ... to place a wreath at the grave of Imad Mughniyeh, a former leader of Lebanese Hizbullah responsible for heinous acts of terrorism that killed hundreds of innocent people, including Americans,” U.S. National Security Council Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.
“The inhumane violence that Mughniyeh perpetrated -- and that Lebanese Hizbullah continues to perpetrate in the region with Iran's financial and material support -- has had profoundly destabilizing and deadly effects for Lebanon and the region,” Hayden added.
She noted that the decision to commemorate “an individual who has participated in such vicious acts, and whose organization continues to actively support terrorism worldwide, sends the wrong message and will only exacerbate tensions in the region.”
Zarif on Monday placed a wreath on Mughniyeh's grave at the Rawdat al-Shahidayn cemetery in the southern suburb of Beirut.
“The occasion of Prophet Mohammed's birthday must carry the beautiful meanings of resistance,” said Zarif at the location.
“The Islamic religion is the religion that calls for confronting tyranny, aggression and arrogance and it is a peaceful religion that is innocent of all the accusations of terrorism and takfirism ... Our visit to this blessed cemetery is the best embodiment of these meanings,” he added.
The elusive Mughniyeh, who led Hizbullah's military resistance against Israel, was killed in a 2008 car bomb blast in the Syrian capital Damascus.
Hizbullah blamed his killing on Israel, the party's sworn enemy, which denied involvement.
Information about Mughniyeh is limited, but he is generally understood to have been a principal leader and operative for a number of years within Hizbullah's military, intelligence, and security apparatuses. He may also have been among the founders of Hizbullah in the 1980s.
U.S. and Israeli officials have accused Mughniyeh of association with many bombings, kidnappings and assassinations, beginning with the Beirut U.S. barracks bomb attack and U.S. embassy bombings, both of which took place in 1983 and killed over 350, as well as the kidnapping of dozens of foreigners in Lebanon in the 1980s.
He was indicted in Argentina for an alleged role in the 1992 Israeli embassy attack in Buenos Aires.
U.S. officials have accused him of killing more United States citizens than any other anti-U.S. operative prior to the 2001 U.S. attacks, and the bombings and kidnappings he is alleged to have organized are credited with all but eliminating the U.S. military presence in Lebanon in the 1980s.
Mughniyeh was included in the European Union's list of “wanted terrorists” and had a USD 5 million bounty on the FBI “Most Wanted Terrorists list.”
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