Revolutionary Guard General Qassem Soleimani, the powerful head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, has been killed in an airstrike at Baghdad International Airport, Iraqi TV and three Iraqi officials officials said Friday.
The officials said the strike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias in Iraq known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, which were responsible for the recent attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
An official with the PMF blamed the U.S. military for the strike. ‘The American and Israeli enemy is responsible for killing the mujahideen Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Qassem Soleimani,’ said Ahmed al-Assadi, a PMF spokesman.
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that strikes had been carried out against two targets linked to Iran in Baghdad on Thursday but declined to give any further details.
American officials have made no public comments on the strike yet. The Pentagon and the White House did not immediately respond to inquiries from DailyMail.com. Soon after news of the strike spread, President Donald Trump tweeted an image of an American flag, offering no remarks or explanation.
The audacious airport strike is a potential turning point in the Middle East as U.S.-Iran relations teeter on the brink, and is expected to draw severe retaliation from Iran and and its Shiite allies against Israel and American interests.
Experts say that the killing of Soleimani will be viewed by Iran as a massive military provocation. ‘The pressure to retaliate will be immense,’ tweeted Middle East scholar and John Hopkins professor Vali Nasr.
‘Soleimani had cult hero status within IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) and among Shia militias in the region, and was personally the most popular regime figure in Iran,’ said Nasr.
The Pentagon confirmed he was killed “at the direction of the president”.
It comes after reports of a strike at Baghdad’s international airport, which is said to have killed a number of people.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards also confirmed Gen Soleimani was dead, blaming an attack by US helicopters.
Iran has been escalating the pressure for a couple of years. This time, they pushed too hard by attacking American people on American soil… and we pushed back.