A strategic U.S. airstrike on a convoy leaving Baghdad International Airport early Friday killed Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, and the man the U.S. State Department says is ultimately responsible for the deaths of 17 percent of U.S. soldiers killed during the Iraq War. The strike also took out top Iraqi paramilitary commander Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, who headed the Iranian-linked Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). More details about the strike and footage of its aftermath have emerged.
Sources told The Associated Press that the strike occurred just as Muhandis was greeting the Iranian general at the airport. The general had reportedly just arrived from either Syria or Lebanon. Soleimani’s body was reportedly identified by his ring.
Video posted by Press TV, “the first Iranian international news network,” reportedly shows the aftermath of the strike that killed General Soleimani:
— Press TV (@PressTV) January 3, 2020
As The Daily Wire reported, the U.S. State Department has instructed U.S. citizens in Iraq to evacuate the country “immediately” amid rising tensions in the region.
The strike targeting the Iranian military leader followed an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad orchestrated by Iran-backed militias and “approved” by Soleimani, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. The department confirmed the death of Soleimani in a statement issued late Thursday explaining the strategic rationale behind the strike.
“General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” the Defense Department said. “General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more. He had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months – including the attack on December 27th – culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel. General Soleimani also approved the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week.”
“This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans,” the statement asserts. “The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.”
The U.S. State Department holds Soleimani responsible for the deaths of 608 U.S. personnel killed during the Iraq War (2003-2011), which is 17 percent of Americans killed during the lengthy war. Soleimani was the “head of the Iranian and Iranian-backed forces carrying out those operations killing American troops,” Fox News details. “According to the State Department, 17 percent of all deaths of U.S. personnel in Iraq from 2003 to 2011 were orchestrated by Soleimani.”
“U.S. officials say the Guard under Soleimani taught Iraqi militants how to manufacture and use especially deadly roadside bombs against U.S. troops after the invasion of Iraq,” The Associated Press reports. Iran has denied the claim.
The attack by Iran-backed militias on the U.S. Embassy and two-day protest outside the compound came in retaliation for U.S. strategic airstrikes Sunday on five facilities run by Kataeb Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militia. The strikes killed some 25 of the group’s fighters. The U.S. conducted the strategic defensive strikes in response to the Iran-backed group’s attack on an Iraqi base that killed an American contractor.