The head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, has reportedly been killed in a strike near the Baghdad International Airport, along with senior leaders of the Iraqi Shia militia the US blamed for the attack on its embassy.
“The American and Israeli enemy is responsible for killing the mujahideen Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Qassem Soleimani,” said Ahmed al-Assadi, a spokesman for Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces, as cited by Reuters.
Al-Muhandis is the deputy chief of the Popular Mobilization Forces, the umbrella group of Shia militias integrated into the Iraq’s armed forces, which was blamed for the siege of the US embassy in Baghdad earlier this week.
Al-Muhandis and Soleimani were apparently in a convoy traveling near the Baghdad airport when it was struck by multiple missiles. The PMF earlier confirmed the deaths of five of its members and two “guests.”
Reuters reported that the Pentagon has claimed responsibility for the strike, citing an unnamed US official.
The high-profile assassinations come as tensions soar between Tehran and Washington over recent events in Iraq. An American air raid on an Iraqi Shia militia last weekend triggered a heated protest at the US embassy complex in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone on Tuesday, where demonstrators smashed windows, set fires and chanted “death to America.” Washington claimed 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 offered no evidence.