Reaper drone launched from Qatar fired missile that killed Soleimani

Mourners attend on Saturday the funeral procession of Qassem Soleimani, inset, in Karbala. (Reuters)
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Updated 05 January 2020

Reaper drone launched from Qatar fired missile that killed Soleimani

  • New threats of revenge on US as thousands in Baghdad, Karbala mourn Iranian warlord

LONDON: A drone launched from Qatar fired the missile that killed Iranian warlord Qassem Soleimani, US military sources have revealed.

Soleimani, head of the overseas Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, deputy chief of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, and five others were killed in the strike at Baghdad airport early on Friday.

They were hit by Hellfire R9X Ninja missiles launched by the MQ-9 Reaper drone sent from Al-Udeid military and air base in Qatar, UK media reported.

Two missiles were fired, one for each of the two vehicles carrying Soleimani and Al-Muhandis, and were controlled remotely by operators at the US Air Force base in Creech, Nevada. A second backup drone was also launched from US Central Command headquarters in Qatar, but was not needed.

The “near-silent” Reaper drone has a range of 1,850 km, can fly at a height of 15,000 meters, and is an “armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance” aircraft designed primarily for offensive strikes, according to the US Air Force. “It provides a unique capability to perform strike, coordination and reconnaissance against high-value, fleeting, and time-sensitive targets,” it said.

HIGHLIGHT

As Qatar’s role in Soleimani’s death was revealed, Qatar’s foreign minister flew to Tehran for talks with President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

US President Donald Trump is thought to have authorized the strike last Sunday, at the same time as approving F-15 fighter jet attacks on bases in Iraq operated by Iran-backed militias. The operation was planned by the US National Security Agency based on intelligence on Soleimani’s movements supplied by informants, electronic intercepts, reconnaissance aircraft, and the security forces of America’s regional allies. Soleimani arrived in Baghdad on a private jet from Damascus minutes before the missile strike.

As Qatar’s role in Soleimani’s death was revealed, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani flew to Tehran for talks with President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Sheikh Mohammed said the situation in the region was sensitive and concerning, and he called for a peaceful solution leading to de-escalation.

In Baghdad on Saturday, tens of thousands of people took part in a march to mourn Soleimani, as Iran ramped up threats of revenge for his death.

A rocket fell inside the heavily fortified Green Zone near the US Embassy, another hit the nearby Jadriya neighborhood, and two more were fired at the Balad air base north of the city. There were no casualties.

NATO and a separate US-led mission suspended their programs to train Iraqi security and armed forces.

Gholamali Abuhamzeh, a senior commander of the Revolutionary Guards, said Tehran would punish Americans “wherever they are in reach,” and threatened attacks on ships in the Arabian Gulf.

The US army used MQ-9 Reaper drones to kill Iranian commander Qassem Suleimani (Footage by AFP)



Iraq’s foreign minister makes first visit to Iran

Updated 35 min 22 sec ago

Iraq’s foreign minister makes first visit to Iran

  • Iran sees neighboring Iraq as a possible route to bypass US sanctions that President Donald Trump re-imposed in 2018

TEHRAN: Iraq’s foreign minister arrived Saturday in Tehran for bilateral talks with senior Iranian officials, according to the state-run news agency.
IRNA reported that Fuad Hussein planned to meet his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani, in what marked his first visit to the Iranian capital.
Zarif visited Baghdad in mid-July, when he met with Hussein and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi. It was Zarif’s first visit to Iraq since a US airstrike in January killed a top Iranian general, Qassim Soleimani, outside Baghdad’s international airport. The strike catapulted Iraq to the brink of a US-Iran proxy war that could have destabilized the Middle East.
After Zarif’s trip, the Iraqi premier visited Iran in July.
The report did not elaborate on the main reasons behind the top Iraqi diplomat’s two-day trip to Tehran.
Iran sees neighboring Iraq as a possible route to bypass US sanctions that President Donald Trump re-imposed in 2018 after pulling the US out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.
Last year, Iran’s exports to Iraq amounted to nearly $9 billion, the official IRNA news agency reported on Tuesday. It said the two nations will discuss increasing the amount to $20 billion.
Before the current global pandemic, some 5 million Iranian pilgrims annually brought in nearly $5 billion visiting Iraq’s Shiite holy sites.
Iran has seen the worst outbreak in the region, with more than 443,000 thousand confirmed cases and at least 25,300 deaths.
A news website affiliated with Iranian state TV, yjc.ir, reported that Iran canceled all its flights to Iraqi cities until the religious holiday of Arbaeen, due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak. The holiday marks the end of the forty days of mourning that follow annually on the death anniversary of the seventh-century Muslim leader Hussein, who was killed at the Battle of Karbala during the tumultuous first century of Islam’s history.
Iran fought an eight-year war with Iraq that killed nearly 1 million people on both sides, after former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded in the early 1980s.