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Airstrike kills Iran’s Quds force head, Iraqi PMU chief

BAGHDAD:

An airstrike near Baghdad International Airport killed one of the most powerful commanders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and a top member of the Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi group, local media reported Friday.

Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Forces, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, vice president of the Hashd al-Shaabi group, or Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), were killed in a drone strike, according to an Iraqi national TV channel.

It was not immediately clear who carried out the strike.

Soleimani was the long-time commander of the Quds Forces, which has been a designated terror group in the U.S. since 2007. The group is estimated to have 20,000 members.

In July 2018, Soleimani challenged U.S. President Donald Trump over his warning that Iran will “suffer consequences” if Tehran threatens Washington.

Shortly after the reports on the slain military leaders, Trump posted the U.S. flag on Twitter with no comment.

The attack came amid Iranian tensions with the U.S. after thousands of Iraqis stormed the U.S. 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 U.S. military base in Kirkuk blamed on Kataib Hezbollah, which is part of the Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi group. Friday’s attack killed one U.S. contractor and wounded four U.S. service members.

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