General Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, was killed in an airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport Friday. General Soleimani was apparently on the top-hit list anti-Iran forces and Soleimani himself knew he would be targetted one day.
The strike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF, the officials said. Their deaths are a possible turning point in the Middle East and are anticipated to draw harsh vengeance from Iran and the forces it backs in the Middle East against Israel and American interests.
The PMF blamed the United States for an attack at Baghdad International Airport Friday. There was no immediate comment from the US or Iran.
A senior Iraqi politician and a high-level security official confirmed to the Associated Press that General Soleimani and al-Muhandis were among those killed in the attack. Two militia leaders loyal to Iran also confirmed the deaths, including an official with the Kataeb Hezbollah.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said al-Muhandis had arrived at the airport in a convoy to receive Soleimani whose plane had arrived from either Lebanon or Syria. The airstrike happened as soon as he disembarked from the plane to be greeted by al-Muhandis and his associates, killing them all.
Earlier, Yossi Cohen, who is the director of the Israeli spy agency Mossad, has acknowledged having a “prestigious” assassination list at his disposal, claiming that targeting foreign influential figures, including Iran’s Major General Qassem Soleimani, is “not impossible.”
Choen went to say – “He knows very well that his assassination is not impossible. His actions are identified and felt everywhere… there’s no doubt the infrastructure he built presents a serious challenge for Israel.”
Cohen also commented that Nasrallah “knows we have the option of eliminating him” but did not answer when asked why Israel does not do so. The Times of Israel published the remarks on October 11.
The New York Times had earlier revealed a March 2017 meeting in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, in which top Saudi intelligence officials close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman asked a small group of businessmen last year about using private companies to assassinate Iranian enemies of the kingdom.
The intelligence unit of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) said it had last year thwarted an Arab-Israeli plot to assassinate General Soleimani, who commands the IRGC’s Quds Force, in the southeastern Iranian province of Kerman.