A U.S. airstrike struck a convoy in Baghdad airport Thursday night, killing Iranian Major-General Qasem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force, and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, according to multiple reports.
Soleimani was the most prominent military leader in Iran and the long-running leader of the Quds Force, which the U.S. designated a terror group in 2007. It is the intelligence and counterespionage wing of the regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
A spokesman for Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces umbrella grouping of Iran-backed militias confirmed the deaths, saying “the American and Israeli enemy is responsible for killing the mujahideen Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Qassim Soleimani.”
Over an hour after news first broke, the Pentagon confirmed Soleimani’s death late Thursday night, saying that Soleimani had approved the attacks on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad this past week, and 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,” the statement reads.
President Trump seemed to celebrate the announcement with a tweet of the American flag.
An official with the Kataeb Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia which was heavily involved in the embassy attack this week, told the Associated Press that al-Muhandis arrrived at the airport to pick up Soleimani, who arrived from either Lebanon or Syria. The airstrike occurred as soon as the Quds leader left the plane, killing them all.
Earlier on Thursday, following the ending of a siege of the Baghdad embassy, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper released a statement warning Iran that “attacks against us will be met with responses in the time, manner, and place of our choosing.”
The attack comes after Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei retweeted Trump saying that Iran “will pay a very BIG PRICE!” for its role in the embassy attack.
“You can’t do anything,” the Ayatollah challenged Trump on Wednesday.
That guy has tweeted that we see Iran responsible for the events in Baghdad & we will respond to Iran.
1st: You can’t do anything.
2nd: If you were logical —which you’re not— you’d see that your crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan… have made nations hate you. https://t.co/hMGOEDwHuY
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) January 1, 2020