The US confirmed Thursday that it carried out a strike that killed Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, Anadolu reports.
The strike near Baghdad International Airport killed Soleimani, one of the most powerful commanders of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, vice president of the Hashd al-Shaabi group, or Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), local media reported.
— Conflict News (@Conflicts) January 3, 2020
"At the direction of the President [Donald Trump], the US military has taken decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad by killing" Soleimani, the Pentagon said in a statement.
Soleimani was the long-time commander of the Quds Forces, which has been a designated terror group in the US since 2007. The group is estimated to have 20,000 members.
Shortly after the reports on the slain military leaders, Trump posted the US flag on Twitter with no comment.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2020
The Pentagon accused Soleimani of planning to carry out attacks on US diplomats and service members in Iraq and the region, saying the slain leader was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members.
"This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans. The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world," said the statement.
The US' act of international terrorism, targeting & assassinating General Soleimani—THE most effective force fighting Daesh (ISIS), Al Nusrah, Al Qaeda et al—is extremely dangerous & a foolish escalation.
The US bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) January 3, 2020
The attack came amid Iranian tensions with the US after thousands of Iraqis stormed the US Embassy compound on Tuesday, protesting against airstrikes Sunday in Iraq and Syria against the Kataib Hezbollah militia which killed at least 25 fighters.
The airstrikes were in response to a rocket attack Friday on a US military base in Kirkuk blamed on Kataib Hezbollah, which is part of the Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi group. Friday's attack killed one US contractor and wounded four US service members.