Major-General Qassem Soleimani was killed by a US missile attack at Baghdad airport. President Donald Trump ordered the strike after blaming Iran for attacks on the US embassy in Iraq’s capital
A top Iranian general has been killed in a US air strike at Baghdad airport.
Major-General Qassem Soleimani, who was widely seen as the second most powerful man in Iran, was killed in retaliation for attacks against the US embassy in Baghdad just days ago.
He was targeted while driving in a convoy at the airport, with pictures from the scene showing his wrecked vehicle on fire.
Iran’s Minister of Defense Amir Hatami promised a ‘crushing revenge’ in response to the assassination.
A war of words broke out between US President Donald Trump and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei after the embassy was targeted by protesters.
The killing of Soleimani will likely exacerbate tensions between America and Iran, with some fearing it could cause a conflict between the two countries.
As Iran topped the trending list on US Twitter, President Trump tweeted a low-quality picture of the American flag.
A Pentagon spokesman said: “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.
“He had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months – including the attack on December 27th – culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel.
“General Soleimani also approved the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week.
This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans. The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.”
The Department of Defense said the strike had been ordered by the President.
It is not clear how the missiles were fired, although Iran’s state broadcaster claims Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force, was killed in a helicopter attack.
Soleiman and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were killed in a strike on their convoy, an Iraqi militia spokesman told Reuters.
The American and Israeli enemy is responsible for killing the mujahideen Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Qassem Soleimani,” said Ahmed al-Assadi, a spokesman for Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces umbrella grouping of Iran-backed militias.
Strikes had been carried out against two targets linked to Iran in Baghdad on Thursday, US officials told Reuters
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, declined to give any further details.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “We have always recognised the aggressive threat posed by the Iranian Quds force led by Qasem Soleimani.
“Following his death, we urge all parties to de-escalate. Further conflict is in none of our interests.”
Iraqi paramilitary groups said on Friday that three rockets hit Baghdad International Airport, killing five members of Iraqi paramilitary groups and two “guests.”
The rockets landed near the air cargo terminal, burning two vehicles, killing and injuring several people.
Trump previously warned that Iran would be held responsible for lives lost and damage caused as a result of attacks on the US embassy.
In response, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said: “That guy (Donald Trump) has tweeted that they see Iran responsible for the events in Baghdad and will respond to Iran.
“Firstly, you can’t do a damn thing since this issue is not related to Iran and secondly, you should be logical and come to find the root causes; of course you are not logical.”
Soleimani, who has led the foreign arm of the Revolutionary Guards and has had a key role in fighting in Syria and Iraq, acquired celebrity status at home and abroad.
He was instrumental in the spread of Iranian influence in the Middle East, which the United States and Tehran’s regional foes Saudi Arabia and Israel have struggled to keep in check
He survived several assassination attempts against him by Western, Israeli and Arab agencies over the past two decades.
The general ordered attacks across the world, including in Thailand, New Delhi and Nigeria.
One of his most famous plans was an attempt to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the US, according to the New Yorker.
He reportedly paid a Mexican drug cartel to blow up the official as he sat at a restaurant just miles from the White House.
However, the plot fell apart after a cartel member working for the Drug Enforcement Administration found out about it.
Soleimani’s Quds Force, tasked with carrying out operations beyond Iran’s borders, shored up support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad when he looked close to defeat in the civil war raging since 2011 and also helped militiamen defeat Islamic State in Iraq.
Soleimani became head of the Quds Force in 1998, a position in which he kept a low profile for years while he strengthened Iran’s ties with Hezbollah in Lebanon, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government and Shi’ite militia groups in Iraq>chaosafrica