Iraqi television is reporting that Gen. Qassim Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, was among those killed in a missile attack on Friday.
The Quds Force, which translates to Jerusalem Force, is a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The unit is responsible for intelligence gathering and unconventional warfare.
The report, which was confirmed by Iraqi officials and militia leaders per the Associated Press, said that Abu Mahdi al-Muhandi, commander of the pro-Iranian Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) militias, was also killed. A total of seven people were reported dead in the attack, which targeted a convoy meeting Soleimani’s plane at Baghdad International Airport.
Per the report, Soleimani had flown in from either Lebanon or Syria and was being met by al-Muhandis with a convoy of vehicles. The meeting was targeted by a salvo from a Russian-made Katyusha surface-to-surface rocket launcher. An Iraqi airport protocol officer was among the dead.
As yet, no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the strike followed US air strikes in retaliation for an Iran-backed attack on the US embassy in Baghdad over the weekend. There has been comment from US officials.
Over the past year, US-Iran relations have become increasingly rocky. Last June, President Trump aborted an attack on Iran after the terrorist state shot down a US drone.
On Thursday, Secretary of Defense Mike Esper said that the US had “indications” that more Iranian provocations might take place soon.
“If that happens, then we will act and by the way, if we get word of attacks or some type indication, we will take preemptive action as well to protect American forces, to protect American lives,” Esper said.