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Report: US unsuccessful in killing 2nd Iranian commander in Yemen during Soleimani mission

IRGC Quds Force Major General Qassem Soleimani (Erfan Kouchari/Tasnim News Agency) / IRGC Quds Force Commander Abdul Reza Shahlai (U.S. State Department/Released)
January 10, 2020

A new report revealed that the U.S. conducted a secret mission against a second Iranian military figure in Yemen on the same day that Gen. Qassem Soleimani was killed in Iraq.

Four U.S. officials told The Washington Post that the secret operation targeted Abdul Reza Shahlai, a commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force like Soleimani, however, the operation was not successful.

Officials said the mission is still considered “highly classified” and they refused to discuss additional information other than declaring the mission unsuccessful, the Washington Post said.

Though the strikes on Shahlai and Soleimani were both authorized at similar times, details on the Shahlai mission had not yet been revealed because the mission was unsuccessful, and Shahlai could possibly be targeted again in the future, officials revealed.

Social media users and some reports had declared on Jan. 3 that Shahlai had died in a coalition airstrike, but the U.S. never confirmed such reports.

“If we had killed him, we’d be bragging about it that same night,” one official said told the Washington Post.

Pentagon spokesperson Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, said in a statement, “We have seen the report of a January 2 airstrike in Yemen, which is long-understood as a safe space for terrorists and other adversaries to the United States,” but declined to speak on “alleged operations.”

Shahlai is singled out in the U.S. Department of State’s Reward for Justice Program’s wanted advisory for the IRGC, which offers a reward of up to $15 million for information that could disrupt IRGC’s funding.

Shahlai is described as a key financier of the IRGC and a key figure in attacks against Americans.

“Shahla’i planned multiple assassinations of coalition forces in Iraq, provided weapons and explosives to Shia extremist groups and planned the January 20, 2007 attack in Karbala, Iraq that killed five American soldiers and wounded three others,” the advisory said.

Shahlai gave $5 million to the IRGC in 2011, and plotted numerous attacks in the U.S. and abroad, including an assassination plot of the Saudi ambassador in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. declared Shahlai a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) in 2008 and 2011. Saudi Arabia, the European Union, United Kingdom, and Bahrain followed suit in 2018.

Brian Hook, the special envoy for Iran, said last year that the U.S. is “gravely concerned by [Shahlai’s] presence in Yemen and potential role in providing advanced weaponry of the kind we have interdicted to the Houthis,” the Washington Post reported.