Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon
Hezbollah in Southern LebanoniStock

An Iranian cleric who helped found Hezbollah as Iran’s ambassador to Syria, and later lost his right hand in a book bombing allegedly carried out by Israel, has died at 74.

Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour died of the coronavirus, reported the Associated Press.

Mohtashamipour was reportedly a close confidant of Iran’s late Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. In the 1970s, he made inroads with terrorist groups across the Middle East.

After Iran’s Islamic Revolution, Mohtashamipour was one of the founders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Later, as ambassador to Syria he brought in the Revolutionary Guard to help with the formation of Hezbollah.

In his later years, he backed reformist causes in Iran, attempting to change the theocratic regime and backing opposition leaders in Iran’s Green Movement protests that came after the controversial 2009 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

According to the Associated Press, an obituary published by Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) called him “one of the founders of Hezbollah in Lebanon.” It also placed blame on Israel for the book bombing in which he lost his hand.

According to the book “Rise and Kill First” by Israeli investigative journalist Ronen Bergman at the time of the attempted assassination of Mohtashamipour the Mossad had received approval from Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to go after the Hezbollah founder. They planted a bomb inside a book about Shiite holy places in Iran and Iraq on Valentine’s Day in 1984. The bomb exploded when he opened the book, blowing up his right hand and two fingers on his left hand. However, he survived the blast and continued his career, eventually becoming a conservative politician and Iran’s interior minister, before joining the reformists.