- General Qasem Soleimani’s killing confirmed Pentagon
- Senior Iraqi Shiite commanders Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Mohammed Redha Al-Jabri also killed
- 4 rocket explosions were seen and heard
- Rocket strike carried out by drone: Iraqi source
Update at 22:03 EST: Pentagon confirmed the killing of Iran’s most senior commander Qasem Suleimani. The Deparment of Defense said in a press release that the air strike was carried out at the direction of President Donald Trump to protect American lives.
It said Soleimani, the top commander of the Quds Force and Iranian Revolutionary Guards orchestrated the attack on a U.S. airbase in Kirkuk that killed an American contractor, and also the siege of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad by Iranian-backed Shiite militias.
Full text of the statement below:
Original story below:
A rocket strike on a convoy of vehicles near the Baghdad airport killed the leader of Iran’s feared Quds Force, General Qasem Soleimani, and senior commanders of the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces of Iraq on Thursday night, a source with the Iraqi security forces said.
The death of Gen. Soleimani, a key player in Mideast politics and the architect of Iranian influence in the region through proxies, was confirmed by Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), which said its deputy head Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was also killed.
The source, who is with the Iraqi security forces and wished to remain anonymous, told International business Times that the rockets detonated simultaneously and appeared to target a convoy of vehicles that were outside of a facility that housed American and Iraqi counter-terrorism forces. He said Mohammed Redha Al-Jabri, a senior Popular Mobilization Force official, was also killed along with his associates. In all, the strike killed eight people.
The precision of the strikes pointed to a possible U.S. role, the source said. If that is confirmed, the strike would mark a sharp escalation in the tensions between the U.S. and Iran. The U.S. military scrambled helicopters following the attack soon after midnight, he said.
A source with the U.S. special operations community in Iraq said separately: “There are indications that the attack was staged as the vehicles that were hit were in motion, the precision that the strike was carried out with could have been the work of a drone if you know what I mean?”
The PMF, or the Hashed as it is known, is an umbrella organization of various Iraqi Shiite militias backed by Iran.
The Quds Force is an arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Forces engaged in carrying out unconventional warfare across the world. Members of the Quds Force fought alongside the PMF against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The Quds Force is also widely considered to be behind the many recent attacks in Syria and Iraq against U.S. forces and the attack that targeted oil facilities in Saudi Arabia.
The Quds Force is reported to have used the war against the Islamic State and the recent popular unrest in Iraq to smuggle in and hide ballistic missiles in Iraq and Syria. Those missiles are considered a threat to U.S. forces and allies if a shooting war breaks out with Iran, and also to Israel.
Israeli military jets have previously targeted Iranian facilities and weapons stockpiles in Syria.
The strike that took out Gen. Soleimani follows the recent siege on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad by pro-Iranian protesters Tuesday, Dec. 31. Tensions in the area have remained high as 750 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne division were sent to Kuwait shortly after the attack.
The siege was carried out in retaliation for U.S. air strikes on Iranian weapons caches in Iraq and Syria, following an attack on an U.S. base that killed an American contractor.
The Popular Mobilisation Front had given the call for the siege, saying it was a “message” to the Americans. President Donald Trump acted decisively following the siege and even threatened Iran that it will be held responsible for any damage to U.S. interests.