Iran’s most powerful military commander, Gen Qasem Soleimani, has been killed by a US airstrike in Iraq. The 62-year-old spearheaded Iranian military operations in the Middle East as head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, the division of Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
First footage to show the moment when US drone struck the convoy in which #QassemSoleimani was traveling at the #Baghdad Airport. pic.twitter.com/3KGABE5kMR
— Aldin ?? (@aldin_ww) January 3, 2020
Soleimani and officials from Iran-backed militias were leaving Baghdad airport in two cars when they were hit by a US drone strike near a cargo area. The commander had reportedly flown in from Lebanon or Syria. Several missiles struck the convoy and at least seven people are believed to have died.
Both SUVs are seen here burning with passengers inside, nothing confirmed yet of the source of the rockets or who was behind the attack #Baghdad #iraq pic.twitter.com/TimWNoYrjt
— Steven nabil (@thestevennabil) January 2, 2020
He was killed at Baghdad airport, along with other Iran-backed militia figures, early on Friday in a strike ordered by US President Donald Trump.
Pondering the geography of the strike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani — which occurred next to Baghdad Int'l Airport, ~2.25 mi from the Al Faw Palace that was U.S. military HQs in Iraq. Quite a commentary QS's freedom of movement https://t.co/IZTwXcvMdg pic.twitter.com/8ijfnH76qE
— Phillip Carter (@Carter_PE) January 3, 2020
“At the direction of the President, the U.S. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization,” a statement from the Pentagon said. “General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”
Soleimani’s killing marks a major escalation in tensions between Washington and Tehran.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said “severe revenge awaits the criminals” behind the attack. He also announced three days of national mourning. Soleimani was widely seen as the second most powerful figure in Iran, behind the Ayatollah Khamenei.
President Trump, who was in Florida at the time of the strike, tweeted an image of the American flag shortly after the news broke.
….of PROTESTERS killed in Iran itself. While Iran will never be able to properly admit it, Soleimani was both hated and feared within the country. They are not nearly as saddened as the leaders will let the outside world believe. He should have been taken out many years ago!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2020
Tweeting again on Friday, Mr Trump said Soleimani had “killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans… and was plotting to kill many more” and “should have been taken out many years ago”.
“While Iran will never be able to properly admit it, Soleimani was both hated and feared within the country,” he said.
There remain conflicting reports about whether a helicopter or a drone actually carried out the strikes. U.S. forces in Iraq have also reportedly sought to confirm Soleimani’s death directly, something that is an important part of the post-strike process for any targeted killing.
The strikes reportedly killed a number of other notable individuals in addition to Soleimani, including Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, Kata’ib Hezbollah leader and the Deputy Chairman of the Popular Mobilization Committee, the Iraqi government entity that oversees the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).
The PMF’s top spokesperson and head of its protocol office, Mohammed Ridha, was also killed. There are unconfirmed reports that a senior member of the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah also died.
Iraqi authorities have denied reports that U.S. forces had arrested other important Iraqi militants who had taken part in the Embassy attack.