Posted on January 10, 2020, 12:28 PM IST
Even as President Donald Trump calls the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani as American Justice, insider sources point that the assassination was planned with the help of informants from Iraq and Syria.
On the fateful day the Iranian General had refused to travel on his private jet and instead taken a passenger plane. Neither Soleimani nor his entourage of personal soldiers were registered on the passenger manifesto, according to a Cham Wings airline.
The passenger flight was later attacked by rockets fired from a U.S. drone killing him as he left the Baghdad airport in a convoy of two armoured vehicles. It also killed was the man who met him at the airport: Abu Mahdi Muhandis, deputy head of Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), the Iraqi government’s umbrella group for the country’s militias.
Investigators have now suspected informants inside the Damascus and Baghdad airports collaborated with the U.S. military to help track and pinpoint Soleimani’s position, according to media interviews with two security officials with direct knowledge of Iraq’s investigation, two Baghdad airport employees, two police officials and two employees of Syria’s Cham Wings Airlines, a private commercial airline headquartered in Damascus.
The probe is being led by Falih al-Fayadh, who serves as Iraq’s National Security Adviser and the head of the PMF, the body that coordinates with Iraq’s mostly Shi’ite militias, many of which are backed by Iran and had close ties to Soleimani.
The National Security agency’s investigators have “strong indications that a network of spies inside Baghdad Airport were involved in leaking sensitive security details” on Soleimani’s arrival to the United States, one of the Iraqi security officials told Reuters.
The suspects include two security staffers at the Baghdad airport and two Cham Wings employees - “a spy at the Damascus airport and another one working on board the airplane,” the source said. The National Security agency’s investigators believe the four suspects, who have not been arrested, worked as part of a wider group of people feeding information to the U.S. military, the official said.
The two employees of Cham Wings are under investigation by Syrian intelligence, the two Iraqi security officials said. The Syrian General Intelligence Directorate did not respond to a request for comment. In Baghdad, National Security agents are investigating the two airport security workers, who are part of the nation’s Facility Protection Service, one of the Iraqi security officials said.
“Initial findings of the Baghdad investigation team suggest that the first tip on Soleimani came from Damascus airport,” the official said. “The job of the Baghdad airport cell was to confirm the arrival of the target and details of his convoy.”
The U.S. Department of Defence has so far declined to comment on whether informants in Iraq and Syria played a role in the attacks. U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told media sources that the United States had been closely tracking Soleimani’s movements for days prior to the strike but declined to say how the military pinpointed his location the night of the attack.