A US strike killed Iran Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani, the Pentagon said on Friday, adding that Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack Americans in Iraq and the Middle East.
“At the direction of the President, the US military has taken decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani," a Pentagon statement said.
“This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans,” it said, adding that the United States would continue to take necessary action to protect Americans and interests around the world.
The Pentagon statement said that Soleimani had “orchestrated” attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the past few months and approved the “attacks” on the US embassy in Baghdad earlier this week.
US officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that Soleimani had been killed in a drone strike in Baghdad.
One US official said that Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes was also believed to have been killed in the strike, though he was not the primary target.
The official said it was aware of the possibility of an Iranian response and US military officials were ready to defend themselves. The official did not rule out additional US troops or military assets going to the region.
A former commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Mohsen Rezaei, on Friday vowed “vigorous revenge against America” for the killing of Soleimani.
“Martyr Lieutenant General Qassem Suleimani joined his martyred brothers, but we will take vigorous revenge on America," Rezaei, who is now the secretary of a powerful state body, said in a post on Twitter.
Iran’s IRGC also confirmed the death of Soleimani in a statement carried by the semi-official Fars news agency on Friday.
“Islam’s soaring commander Qassem Soleimani was martyred today after a lifetime of jihad in an attack by American helicopters,” said the statement.
Soleimani and al-Mohandes, were killed in Baghdad, Fars confirmed.
- With Reuters