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US Forces Shoot Down Two Explosive Laden Drones Heading For Iraqi Military Base

The remains of the wreckage of a drone that was shot down are seen at Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar province, Iraq January 4, 2022. Iraqi Media Security Cell/Handout via REUTERS

US forces have shot down two explosive-laden drones heading for an Iraqi military base, a day after similar devices with ‘Soleimani’s revenge’ written on their wings were intercepted over Baghdad.

The drones are reported to have been an Iraqi military base housing US troops in western Anbar province, officials said.

It is the second such attempted attack coinciding with the anniversary of the 2020 Trump-ordered US airstrike that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani near Baghdad airport.

On Monday, two armed drones were shot down as they headed toward a facility housing US advisers at the same airport.

According to the official, the fixed-wing drones rigged with explosives were engaged and destroyed by defensive capabilities at the Ain al-Asad airbase.

An Iraqi military statement confirmed the attempted attack, saying the drones were shot down outside the parameters of the base.

The facility houses troops with the US-led international coalition fighting the so-called Islamic State group (IS) in Iraq.

In Monday’s attack, the drones were shot down by the C-RAM defence system that protects American installations in Iraq, and there were no reports of damage or injuries from the incident.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack, although one of the wings of the drones had the words ‘Soleimani’s revenge’ painted on it, according to the coalition and Iraqi officials.

‘These are attacks against Iraqi installations and an attack against the Iraqi people and the military that protects them,’ a coalition official said.

‘We maintain a minimal footprint on Iraqi bases. The coalition no longer has its own bases in Iraq.’

Hackers also hijacked media in Iran’s sworn enemy country, Israel, with an ominous image of a missile being fired from a finger with a ring-like Soleimani used to wear appearing on the homepage of the Jerusalem Post.

The 2020 US drone strike at Baghdad’s airport killed Gen Qassim Soleimani, who was the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iran-backed militias in Iraq known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces.

Pro-Iran Shia factions in Iraq have vowed revenge over the killing and have conditioned the end of attacks against the US presence in Iraq on the full exit of American troops from the country.

The US-led coalition formally ended its combat mission supporting Iraqi forces in the ongoing fight against IS last month.

Some 2,500 troops will remain as the coalition shifts to an advisory mission to continue supporting Iraqi forces.

‘While we have ended our combat mission, we maintain the inherent right of self-defence,’ the coalition official said.

Soleimani was killed on January 3, 2021, in a drone strike near Baghdad airport ordered by then-U.S. president Donald Trump.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said on Monday that Trump must face trial for the killing or Tehran would take revenge.

Raisi issued the vengeful diatribe on the second anniversary of Soleimani’s death as thousands gathered for memorial services at mosques in Iran and allied countries across the Middle East.

Soleimani headed the Quds Force, the shadowy operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, with links to jihadists in Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Syria, and Yemen.

The commander was blown up in his motorcade by a Reaper drone missile outside Baghdad airport in 2020 in a strike ordered by Trump after intelligence revealed Soleimani was planning attacks on American soldiers in Iraq.

Addressing Tehran’s largest mosque, Raisi said: ‘The aggressor and the main assassin, the then president of the United States, must face justice and retribution’ alongside former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo ‘and other criminals’.

‘Otherwise, I will tell all US leaders that without a doubt the hand of revenge will emerge from the sleeve of the Muslim nation.’

Trump – under whom tensions over Iran’s nuclear programme escalated, leading to a new and painful sanctions regime – ordered the assassination which brought the enemies to the brink of a direct military confrontation.

Washington said at the time that Soleimani was planning imminent action against US personnel in Iraq, a war-battered country long torn between principal allies Washington and Tehran.

January 3, 2020, US strike killed Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy leader of the Iran-backed Hashed al-Shaabi coalition of armed groups.

The night-time strike ordered by Trump struck a convoy in which Soleimani and Muhandis were travelling on the edge of the airport.

Soleimani, commonly known as the second-most powerful man in Iran and tipped as a future president, was so badly maimed in the strike that he had to be identified by a large ring he wore on his finger.

He had just landed in Baghdad airport on a plane from either Syria or Lebanon around 12.30 am when he was met on the tarmac by Muhandis, deputy commander of the pro-Iran Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq.

Muhandis pulled up to the aircraft steps in two cars before Soleimani and Mohammed Ridha Jabri, public relations chief for the PMF who had been traveling with him, climbed inside and were driven away.

Moments later, as the cars passed through a cargo area headed for an access road leading out of the airport, the convoy was struck by missiles fired by an MQ-9 Reaper drone – a deadly unmanned aircraft that is designed primarily for offensive strikes.

Both vehicles were instantly reduced to smoldering wrecks – killing Soleimani, Muhandis, and three others.

Iran responded days later by firing missiles at bases hosting US troops in Iraq. No one was killed but Washington said dozens suffered traumatic brain injuries.

Amid the heightened tensions Iran also accidentally downed a Ukrainian passenger jet on January 8, 2020, killing all 176 people aboard.
Soleimani’s funeral drew millions, and his martyr’s portrait can now be seen on streets, in squares, and on buildings from Tehran to southern Lebanon and Gaza.

Source: Daily Mail

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