General Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite al-Quds force was killed when in a drone attack on a convoy that was leaving Baghdad Airport on Friday Deputy chief of Iraq’s paramilitary force and some local Iran-backed militias also killed Military Action carried out at the direction of Trump, says Pentagon
GENERAL Qasem Soleimani, the powerful commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, was killed in a US drone strike in Iraq to protect American personnel abroad, the Pentagon announced on Friday, dramatically escalating hostilities between the arch-rivals and spiking tensions in the already volatile Persian Gulf region.
Gen Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite al-Quds force and architect of its regional security apparatus, was killed when a drone fired missiles into a convoy that was leaving the Baghdad International Airport early on Friday. The strike also killed the deputy chief of Iraq’s powerful Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force and some local Iran-backed militias. Gen Soleimani, 62, was widely seen as the second most powerful figure in Iran behind the Ayatollah Khamenei. His Quds Force, an elite unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, reported directly to the Ayatollah and he was hailed as a heroic national figure.
The Pentagon confirmed the death of Soleimani in the airstrike, saying the military action was carried out at the direction of President Donald Trump. “At the direction of the President, the US military has taken decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organisation,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
Following Soleimani’s killing, Trump, now on vacation in Florida, did not comment immediately, except for tweeting an image of the US flag.
The strike comes days after Trump threatened Tehran after Iraqi supporters of pro-Iranian regime factions laid siege to the US embassy in Baghdad, following deadly American air strikes on a hardline Hashed faction.
Gen 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.
He had reportedly flown in from Lebanon or Syria. Several missiles struck the convoy and at least seven people are believed to have died, according to media reports from Baghdad.
The Pentagon alleged that the strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.
“General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region. General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more,” it said.
The Pentagon said that Soleimani had “orchestrated” attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months - including the attack on December 27 - culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel.
“General Soleimani also approved the attacks on the US embassy in Baghdad that took place this week,” it said.
“The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world,” it said.
In 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.
Khamenei then extolled Soleimani saying dying for the cause was the General’s great wish. “For years it was his wish to become a martyr, and finally God granted him his highest office”, he said.
President Hasan Rouhani, reacting to Soleimani’s killing, said it had “redoubled the determination of the nation of Iran and other free nations to stand against America’s bullying and defend Islamic values”.