General Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and architect of its regional security apparatus, has been killed following a US air raid at Baghdad’s international airport on Friday.
The Pentagon confirmed the death of Soleimani in Iraq, saying the attack was carried out at the direction of US President Donald Trump, and was aimed at deterring future attacks allegedly being planned by Iran.
Iraqi officials and the state television reported that aside from Soleimani, Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was also killed in the pre-dawn raid.
Iran’s IRGC as well as Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) umbrella grouping of Iran-backed militias, also confirmed the deaths of Soleimani and Muhandis.
Sources from the PMF earlier told Al Jazeera that the rockets destroyed two vehicles carrying “high-profile guests”, who had arrived at the Baghdad airport and were being escorted by militia members. Earlier reports said five other people were killed in the raid.
Al Jazeera’s Osama Bin Javaid, reporting from Baghdad, said the deaths are a major turning point in Iraq and the entire Middle East.
He said that the region has already been “on edge” since the US strike on PMF forces near Iraq’s border with Syria, and the attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday.
“This is a major blow on the relationship between the United States and the Iraqi government,” bin Javaid said. “It is a very precarious situation on which this significant development is taking place.”
At the direction of the President, the U.S. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) January 3, 2020
US President Donald Trump posted an image of the American flag on social media following the news of Soleimani’s death.
US Senator Lindsey Graham, an ally of Trump, said the death of Soleimani is a “major blow to Iranian regime that has American blood on its hands.”