General Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds force, has been reported killed alongside six others following a US airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport.
Iraqi officials and the state television reported that aside from Soleimani, Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was killed in the attack.
Ahmed al-Assadi, a spokesman for Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces umbrella grouping of Iran-backed militias, also confirmed the attack.
Two unnamed US officials told Reuters news agency that the US carried out the targeted airstrikes.
Sources from the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) earlier told Al Jazeera that the rockets destroyed two vehicles carrying “high profile guests”, who had arrived at the airport and were being escorted by a PMF public relations official.
Al Jazeera’s Osama bin Javaid, reporting from Baghdad, said the incident appeared to be a targeted strike.
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Witnesses in the area also told Al Jazeera that they could hear the sounds of sirens and helicopters in the air following the pre-dawn attack.
The area of the incident has been cordoned off, authorities told Al Jazeera, but the international airport remains in operation.
Our correspondent added that the attack took place near the base of the US-led coalition forces.
The attack occurred amid tensions with the US after an Iran-backed militia and other protesters breached the United States‘s Embassy in Baghdad.
The attack at the embassy on New Year’s Eve was in response to a deadly US airstrike that killed 25 forces of the PMF, also known as the Hashd al-Shaabi group.