10 people, including Quds Force chief Soleimani and Iran-backed Iraqi militia officials, killed in US attack – Iranian envoy
US rockets have destroyed two SUVs packed with Iranian and Iraqi high-ranking officials at Baghdad airport, killing all 10 passengers, including the head of Iranian elite Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, Tehran’s envoy to Iraq said.
According to Ambassador Iraj Masjedi, the convoy was en route from the airport to Baghdad when it was hit by airstrikes on Friday morning.
Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraq’s Shia paramilitary Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), was killed alongside Soleimani.
PMU officials earlier confirmed that several “important guests” had perished together with the militias, blaming “the American and Israeli enemy” for their deaths. Masjedi said the victims’ bodies will be delivered to Iran “as soon as possible.”
#BREAKING#NOW The Security Media Cell of the Iraqi Prime Minister confirms that 3 rockets have landed in the vicinity of #Baghdad Airport and that a number of Iraqi civilians have been injured.#Iraq#Iran#USA#IRGCpic.twitter.com/spFYZ74pJL— Eva J. Koulouriotis - إيفا كولوريوتي (@evacool_) January 2, 2020
The umbrella group of Shia militias integrated into Iraq’s armed forces was blamed for the siege of the US Embassy in Baghdad earlier this week.
Interruption of all flights to and from #Baghdad International Airport with intense flight of American helicopters around the airport, fearing new attacks.#Iraq#Iran#USA#IRGCpic.twitter.com/oH39Sq176I— Eva J. Koulouriotis - إيفا كولوريوتي (@evacool_) January 2, 2020
Later in the day, the Pentagon admitted that US President Donald Trump had ordered the killing of Soleimani “to protect US personnel abroad.”
Breaking: Head of protocol affairs in the PMF committee Mohammed Ridha was killed along side “his guests” during an attack on two SUVs on the main road of Baghdad Airport #Baghdad#Iraqpic.twitter.com/2sNj0drylL— Steven nabil (@thestevennabil) January 2, 2020
Muhammad Reza Al-Jabri, director of public relations at the PMU, was reportedly killed in the strike. The two vehicles were captured on video burning on the road leading to the airport.
🚨🚨 #BREAKING: Reports of a drone strike killing head of #Iraq PMF protocol affairs Mohammed Ridha and his “his guests” during an attack on two SUVs on the main road of Baghdad Airport. A significant move if true.— Jason Brodsky (@JasonMBrodsky) January 2, 2020
Hours after the attack, the PMU confirmed the death of its PR director, calling the alleged retaliatory sortie a “cowardly US bombing,” according to Reuters.
ما نعرفه حتى اللحظة و مؤكد هو اصابة سيارتين و مقتل من فيها في طريق المطار و ننتظر تأكيد ونفي كل شيء اضافي عن القصف الذي حصل في مطار بغداد pic.twitter.com/Z0liPLZEKd— Steven nabil (@thestevennabil) January 2, 2020
The incident forced the airport into an immediate shutdown. All inbound and outbound flights have been canceled or diverted for the time being.
The airport is located next to the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center (BDSC), which is used by diplomats and intelligence operatives, as well as the US-led anti-terrorist coalition forces in Iraq. The area is also home to the joint counter-terrorism center.
The strikes come amid soaring tensions between Tehran and Washington over recent events in Iraq. A US air raid on an Iraqi Shia militia last weekend triggered a heated demonstration at the US embassy complex in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone on Tuesday. Protesters smashed windows, lit fires and chanted anti-American slogans. Washington insisted the raid was in retaliation for a militia rocket attack on a US base in Kirkuk, and that Iran provided backing for the assault, though it offered no evidence for the claim.
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