ISLAMABAD: Israel provided critical intelligence details, which led to the killing of Iran’s elite Quds Force General Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike outside Baghdad airport last week, US media reported on Sunday.
According to NBC, theCentral Intelligence Agency (CIA) received intelligence on Soleimani’s night-time flight from Damascus to Baghdad, from two informants, which the agency then confirmed and verified, reports the international media.
Once the Cham Wing’s Airbus A320 landed in the Iraqi capital, American intelligence agents were able to pinpoint Soleimani’s location, the report said, quoting two sources with direct knowledge of the operation.
Three drones hovered above the American-controlled airspace, armed with Hellfire missiles. They tracked Soleimani’s movements outside the airport and into his convoy; one sedan carrying the general and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, leader of Kata’ib Hezbollah, and another minivan with their entourage.
Four hellfire missiles struck the convoy on January 3, killing the entire group. The New York Times also reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was likely Washington’s only ally who had prior knowledge of the assassination.
Netanyahu spoke to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on January 1, who perhaps offered him thanks for Israel’s assistance in the fight against Iranian aggression, and following the attack on the US embassy in Iraq.
At Ben Gurion airport the next morning, the Israeli Prime Minister addressed reporters ominously, before departing for Athens. “We know that our region is stormy; very, very dramatic things are happening in it. We are alert and are monitoring the situation. We are in continuous contact with our great friend the US, including my conversation yesterday afternoon,” he said.
The airstrike, which killed Soleimani and Al-Muhandis, took place hours after. According to Haaretz, Iraqi authorities have detained four people – two Baghdad airport employees and two Cham Wings airline workers, for allegedly colluding with the US.
They are believed to be part of a larger network that provided information about Soleimani to the US. The authorities suspect that the four informed the CIA about Soleimani’s arrival in Iraq on the night he was killed.
In addition, two US officials told a UK-based wire agency that their country carried out a secret operation in Yemen that targeted, but failed to kill, an Iranian military official last week. The strike was carried out on the same day that the United States struck Soleimani, the officials said.
The timing could suggest that the United States had sought to take out a broader swathe of the Iranian military leadership when it killed Soleimani, citing an imminent threat from him. The Pentagon declined comment on the failed strike in Yemen, first reported by the Washington Post.