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US kills top Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani in airstrike near Baghdad airport
Qassem Soleimani (Pool / Press Office of Iranian Supreme Leader/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images))

US kills top Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani in airstrike near Baghdad airport

Soleimani was head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard

A U.S. rocket attack on an envoy near the Baghdad airport in Iraq killed at least seven people late Thursday, including a senior Iranian military leader, Qassem Soleimani, according to Iraqi state television.

Reuters reported that Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was also killed in the strike.

Soleimani was head of the elite Quds Force, and was closely linked to Iran's foreign proxy groups, according to The Washington Post.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper confirmed Thursday night that the U.S. launched the attack.

The Pentagon released a statement saying:

At the direction of the President, the U.S. military has taken decisive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.

General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region. General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more. He had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months - including the attack on December 27th - culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel.

General Soleimani also approved the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week. 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.

President Donald Trump did not issue an immediate statement following the strike, but did tweet out a picture of the American flag.

A spokesman for the Iraqi militia group told Reuters, "The American and Israeli enemy is responsibly for killing the mujahideen Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Qassem Soleimani."

Who was Soleimani?

In a profile by The New Yorker in 2013, a former CIA officer in Iraq described Soleimani as "the single most powerful operative in the Middle East."

Fox News reported that according to the State Department, Soleimani was responsible for orchestrating 17 percent of all deaths of U.S. personnel in Iraq from 2003 to 2011.

The Daily Wire pointed to multiple analysts who stated that the killing of Soleimani was more significant than the deaths of Osama bid Laden and Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.

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