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2 Jan, 2020 22:58

10 people, including Quds Force chief Soleimani and Iran-backed Iraqi militia officials, killed in US attack – Iranian envoy

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.”

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.

Later in the day, the Pentagon admitted that US President Donald Trump had ordered the killing of Soleimani “to protect US personnel abroad.”

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.

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. 

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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