WASHINGTON - The U.S. military confirmed killing the leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, in an airstrike early Friday that had been ordered by President Donald Trump.
Iranian and Iraqi officials have so far confirmed the U.S. attack killed eight other people who were accompanying Soleimani at Iraqi’s Baghdad airport.
Here is what you need to know about them:
Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis
Born in 1954, Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi, more commonly known by his nom de guerre, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, was the head of Iraq’s powerful anti-American Shiite group, Kataeb Hezbollah, and the deputy commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces.
The United States has labeled al-Muhandis an adviser to Soleimani and a key Shiite militia leader targeting the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and U.S. allies in the Middle East. He reportedly participated in the bombing of Western embassies in Kuwait and the attempted assassination of the emir of Kuwait in the early 1980s.
The U.S. State Department designated al-Muhandis and his group as a terrorist organization in July 2009.
Officials in Washington blamed al-Muhandis’ paramilitary group for an assault December 27 on a military base in Iraq’s Kirkuk province that killed an American contractor and wounded several U.S. and Iraqi military personnel. The attack prompted U.S. airstrikes on five Kataeb Hezbollah facilities in Iraq and Syria that killed at least 25 members of his militiamen Sunday.
Before his death in the U.S. airstrike, al-Muhandis earlier this week was seen leading hundreds of Shiite protesters and militiamen who attacked the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad.
Major General Hossein Pourjafari, also referred to as Jafari Nia in Iran, was known as the right-hand man of Soleimani since the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s and was his most trusted assistant afterward, traveling with him occasionally.
Pourjafari was born in 1955 in Goblaf city, Kerman province, near the Afghan border in southeast Iran. As a respected veteran commander who was injured in the battlefield during the Iran-Iraq War, he played a critical role in the formation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) intelligence wing. IRGC was designated a terror group by the Trump administration in April 2018 for its destabilizing efforts in the Middle East.
Iranian military officials described Pourjafari as a genius leader in designing IRGC’s asymmetrical wars in the Middle East.
Shahroud Mozaffari Nia
Shahroud Mozaffari Nia served as a colonel in the IRGC. Another Iran-Iraq War veteran, he spent his last years as a member of IRGC’s intelligence unit. He reportedly worked with pro-Iranian militias in Lebanon and Syria under the pseudonym of Abu Ahmad.
Hadi Taremi, an IRGC lieutenant, was born in 1980 in Ghamach-abad village in Abhar in Zanjan province. His brother Javad was killed during IRGC clashes with anti-government militants in 1990.
Taremi was a member of the IRGC security bureau for almost 10 years before his promotion to IRGC’s Quds Force unit.
He was known to be one of the closest people in Soleimani’s inner circle and his No. 1 bodyguard. He accompanied Soleimani in most of his official visits inside Iran.
Another IRGC lieutenant, Vahid Zamanian was born in 1992 in the city of Rey in the suburbs of Tehran. Before joining the IRGC, he worked 10 years as a member of Basij Mostazafin, a volunteer paramilitary group in charge of Iran’s international security.
He was reportedly one of the rotating bodyguards of Soleimani and accompanied him in some unofficial international visits. Additionally, he reportedly was involved in the IRGC-Quds Force’s Fatemiyoun Brigade, an all-Afghan militia formed in 2014 and sent to Syria to help the government of Bashar al-Assad in the fight against Sunni rebels.
Muhammad Radha al-Jabri
Muhammad Radha al-Jabri was in charge of airport protocol for the Iraqi Shiite militia known as the Popular Mobilization Forces. Not much is known about al-Jabri’s background, but according to Iraqi media, he was a graduate of Imam Hossein University in Tehran.
Hassan Abdu al-Hadi, Muhammad al-Shaybani and Haider Ali
The three bodyguards who were members of the Popular Mobilization Forces were also among those killed in the attack, according to Iraq’s Shiite media. More information on their profiles was not immediately available.
While it has been reported that the deputy chief of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah was among those killed in the U.S. strike in Baghdad, the media office of the Shiite group has denied his death.
“Some media outlets and social media [pages] circulate rumors about the fall of Lebanese martyrs in the U.S. aggressive raid on Iraq. The [office of] media relations in Hezbollah confirms that all rumors circulating in this regard are totally incorrect,” it said in a statement Friday.
Naim Qassem, born in 1953 in southern Lebanon, is the deputy chief of Hezbollah.
He had a central role in the founding of Hezbollah in 1982. He became the second most important figure in the Shiite group in 1991 and has held the position since.
While the group’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, largely has focused on Hezbollah’s military activity, Qassem reportedly has been the main figure in charge of empowering the group’s presence in Lebanese politics.
Qassem enjoyed direct support from Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran. Hezbollah has been a major nonstate ally of Iran in the latter’s quest for dominance in the Middle East.
In May 2018, the United States and several allied Persian Gulf countries imposed sanctions on Qassem and other Hezbollah leaders.
“By targeting Hezbollah’s Shura Council, our nations collectively rejected the false distinction between a so-called political wing and Hezbollah’s global terrorist plotting,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said at the time.
Hezbollah was designated by the State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in October 1997.
VOA’s Sirwan Kajjo contributed to this report from Washington.