‘Airstrikes target Iran-backed militants convoy killing six’ hours after US attack on Iranian general


AIRSTRIKES targeting Iran-backed militants have killed six in Iraq 24 hours after President Donald Trump ordered the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, according to local reports.

Two of the three cars making up a Shi’ite militia convoy were found burned out near camp Taji north of Baghdad at 1.12am local time.

 General Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' elite Quds Force, has been killed by US forces in Iraq
General Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force, has been killed by US forces in Iraq

Three were found critically injured among six incinerated corpses.

An Iraq official said the identity of those killed is not immediately known.

Initial reports indicated a high-ranking official was among those who were killed, but it was later confirmed that it was a convoy of medics who were attacked.

Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces umbrella grouping of paramilitary group said in a statement: “Initial sources confirm that the strike targeted a convoy of Popular Mobilization Forces medics near Taji stadium in Baghdad.”

Early reports also suggested it was a US drone strike, but A US official said the attack was not an American military attack.

The latest attack comes after Mr Trump deployed 3,500 US troops to the Middle East in retaliation to threats after he took responsibility for General Soleimani’s killing.

Defence and military officials confirmed said the additional troops from the 82nd Airborne Division will be deployed from Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The president ordered the hit on Soleimani after he in a press conference he was plotting against American diplomats in Iraq.

He blamed Iran for a protest in Iraq which saw demonstrators break into the US embassy in Baghdad and torch the place.

Trump tried to restore calm as he spoke on camera for the first time since giving the airstrike order.

He said: “We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war.

“Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him.

“Under my leadership America’s policy is unambiguous to terrorists who harm or intend to harm any American. We will find you. We will eliminate you.

“We will always protect our diplomats, service members, all Americans and our allies.”

Soleimani – said to be Iran’s second most powerful figure – could later only be identified by the ring on his severed hand.

On Friday, Soleimani arrived at Baghdad Airport by plane and was escorted from the airport by Iraqi allies in a two-car convoy.

Mr Trump has taunted Iran saying General Qasem Soleimani should have been ‘taken out many years ago’ on Twitter.

It comes as Iran’s defence minister has threatened the US with “crushing revenge” and “jihad” in retaliation for General Qasem Soleimani’s assassination.

General Soleimani had landed after travelling from either Syria or Lebanon at around 12.30am when he was met by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of the pro-Iran Popular Mobilization forces in Iraq.

As the cars passed through a cargo area for an access road leading out of the airport, the vehicle was struck by at least two missiles by a US MQ9 Reaper drone which was being controlled remotely.

At least two missiles were fired at the vehicles – killing the general and others on board.

The drone strike came days after protesters attacked the US embassy in Baghdad, clashing with US forces at the scene.

Amir Hatami, Iran’s defence minister, has threatened the US with “crushing revenge” for Gen Soleimani’s “unjust assassination”.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said “severe revenge awaits the criminals” behind the attack.


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