The head of Iran’s Quds Force, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, was killed in an airstrike near Baghdad airport that was launched by the U.S. military under the direction of President Donald J. Trump, a senior DOD official said during a news teleconference.
The Quds Force is a unit of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). It is responsible for extraterritorial operations and is specialized in unconventional warfare and military intelligence operations. The United States declared the IGRC a terrorist organization in April.
“He [Gen. Qassem Soleimani] was the commander directly responsible for organizing and directing multiple attacks against Americans in the region, including [Kataeb Hezbollah] attacks we’ve seen over the last several months,” the official said. Kataeb Hezbollah is a group suspected of having links to the Quds Force.
— Barzan Sadiq (@BarzanSadiq) January 3, 2020
Soleimani, was actively and consistently developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region, the official added.
This U.S. attack was carried out in a manner that minimized collateral damage. It was designed to defend American lives and to prevent further bloodshed, the official noted.
According to the official, there has been a steady increase over the past year in attacks by Shiite militia groups against bases hosting U.S. and coalition forces.
On Dec. 27, U.S. forces in Iraq were attacked near Kirkuk by Kataeb Hezbollah. The attack — in which 31 rockets were fired — killed one American civilian contractor and injured four American service members, as well as two members of the Iraqi security forces. As a result, the U.S. military responded and took defensive actions by striking Kataeb Hezbollah bases in western Iraq and western Syria.
The U.S. counterattacks led to the storming of hundreds of protesters, with allegiance to Kata’ib Hizbollah (KH) and the larger umbrella organization Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces, PMF), at the U.S. Embassy compound in the high-security Green Zone in Baghdad. The protests led to deployment of additional U.S. forces to the region.