Report: In Major Escalation, Explosion Kills Iran's Most Revered Military Leader
A suspected drone strike near Baghdad airport on Thursday night reportedly killed Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian Quds Force commander and Iran’s most revered military leader, according to The Washington Post.
The attack represents a sharp escalation in tensions in the region, particularly between the United States and Iran, despite a lack of clarity surrounding who carried out the strike.
Militias have blamed the U.S. for the attack, and Reuters reported that U.S. officials said “strikes have been carried in Baghdad on Friday out against two targets linked to Iran.”
According to a statement from the Popular Mobilization Forces, “the strike targeted a convoy of two vehicles, killing the group’s head of protocol, Mohammed Ridha, along with an unidentified number of “guests” whom he was escorting from the airport.”
The Post reported that those guests “may have included Iranians who traveling to Baghdad through the airport, where U.S. troops are based alongside Iraqi security forces,” and “Hisham al-Hashemi, a political analyst close to the government, tweeted that three Iranians were among the dead.”
Also reported by The Post, following the strike there were “reports of gunfire erupting in the airport vicinity at the time of the strike, and the Iraqi Army command said three Katyusha rockets, which are typically fired by Iranian backed militias, exploded nearby.”
The U.S. currently has about 5,000 troops stationed in Iraq to support Iraqi security forces and continue fighting against remnants of the Islamic State.