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Airstrikes in Baghdad kill top Iranian general, 2 Iraqi militia leaders: reports

Baghdad International Airport (Jim Gordon/WikiCommons)
January 02, 2020

At least three airstrikes struck Baghdad International Airport in Iraq late Thursday and killed a top Iranian general and a top Iran-backed Iraqi militia leader.

Commander of The Quds Force – an elite unit in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) – Gen. Qassim Soleimani was killed in the strike, along with deputy commander of the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) Iraqi militia, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and PMF official Mohammed Reda, the Associated Press reported.

“General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “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.”

“This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans,” the statement added. “The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.”

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Earlier on Thursday, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper had warned that the U.S. was ready to take “preemptive action” to protect Americans.

“The game has changed, and we’re prepared to do what is necessary to defend our personnel and our interests and our partners in the region,” Esper told reporters at the Pentagon, according to the Associated Press.

“We will take preemptive action as well to protect American forces and protect American lives,” he added.

Esper also said there were “indications” that Iran may be planning attacks on U.S. targets in the Middle East, and he pointed to numerous attacks on U.S. bases in recent months.

Trump had tweeted a warning to Iran on Tuesday, saying, “Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities. They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat. Happy New Year!”

On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said Soleimani and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei were “working to expand their terror campaign all around the world,” Politico reported.

Pompeo had previously referred to Soleimani as equally dangerous as ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was killed in a U.S. raid in October.

Reports have suggested between eight and 10 may have been killed in the attack.

Freelance journalist Ehab Al Obaidy who is reportedly at the scene has shared photos and videos showing burning vehicle wreckage and scattered belongings.

Iraqi militias blamed the U.S. and Israel for the attack ahead of the Pentagon’s confirmation.

“The American and Israeli enemy is responsible for killing the mujahideen Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Qassem Soleimani,” said Ahmed al-Assadi, PMF spokesman said, according to Reuters.