A high-profile commander of Iran's secretive Quds Force and another man said to be the deputy of militias known as Popular Mobilization Forces were reported killed in a strike near Baghdad's international airport, according to Iraqi Television reports late Thursday night.
Iraqi state TV and three Iraqi officials said that General Qassim Suleimani — an iconic military commander of Iran's military forces in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and throughout the Middle East — was killed.
Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was also reported to have been killed.
The U.S. has not confirmed the reports. Iranian state media is quoting the Iraqi TV but have not confirmed it themselves.
The source of the reported airstrike was not clear, but the Popular Mobilization Forces tweeted al-Muhandis and Soleimani were killed what it called an American airstrike.
In the past, the U.S. has credited Suleimani 's militias with combating an American enemy — ISIS in Iraq. Suleimani's Quds Force was a division of Iraq's Revolutionary Guard, widely believed to support a wide number of Iranian-backed terror groups such as Hezbollah.
His death, if confirmed, would certainly dramatically increase tensions between the U.S. and Iran, which were already heightened by the New Year's attacks on the American Embassy in Baghdad.
Rioters for two days attempted to scale the fortress-like walls at the world's largest embassy — until retreating under a show of force from the Pentagon —100 Marines airlifted into the compound, nearly 700 more Army paratroopers arriving tonight in Kuwait from a global response force based at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
Earlier Defense Secretary Mark Esper threatened a pre-emptive strike against Iranian militia if there were any renewed attacks against U.S. personnel or interests in Iraq.
The Chairman of the Joint Chief told reporters attackers would run into a buzz saw.
Al-Muhandis was one of the closest Iraqis to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and he had been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury for acts of violence against Americans. He had also considered to be a close advisor to Soleimani.