Head of Iranian Quds Force, Iraqi commander killed in US air strike

Qassem Soleimani (centre) attends a meeting in Tehran. (AP pic)

BAGHDAD: Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force, and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were killed early on Friday in an air strike on their convoy at Baghdad airport, an Iraqi militia spokesman told Reuters.

“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 umbrella grouping of Iran-backed militias.

US officials told Reuters that strikes had been carried out against two targets linked to Iran in Baghdad.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, declined to give any further details.

Three rockets hit Baghdad International Airport, killing five members of Iraqi paramilitary groups and two “guests”, Iraqi paramilitary groups said on Friday.

The Katyusha rockets landed near the air cargo terminal, burning two vehicles, killing and injuring several people.

Shi’ite Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) said in a post on Facebook that its director of public relations was killed in what it described as “cowardly US bombing”.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Supporters of Iranian-backed Iraqi paramilitary groups stormed the US embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday following US air raids on Sunday against Kataib Hezbollah militia bases in retaliation for missile attacks that killed a US contractor in northern Iraq last week.

Tension between the United States and Iran has ramped up in the region over US economic sanctions hurting the Iranian economy. The two sides have traded blame over attacks on oil installations, militia arms depots as well as military bases hosting US forces.