BAGHDAD — An Iranian tourist was killed by an American airstrike in Baghdad on Thursday night, further inflaming relations between the United States and Iran.
The strike, which occurred at Baghdad International Airport, resulted in the death of Qassim Suleimani, a middle-aged bureaucrat who was on his way to Jerusalem via Baghdad and Damascus, according to his friend Mohsen Chizari.
"Qasseem was a renowned figure in his community, a good family man," Mohsen told reporters at a press conference in Baghdad, where he was flanked by Iraqi politicians furious over the violation of Iraqi sovereignty.
"He had just come to visit his friend Abu, who lives here in Baghdad. They have been doing import-export work together for many years. Mostly guns, but also sometimes chemical weapons and the occasional explosively-formed penetrator. It is horrifying that Qassim was killed in this wanton act."
"Also, who bombs someone at an airport?" Mohsen asked during the press conference. "What insane sort of person would dare to fire ordnance that close to a flight line? I mean, we just thought Qaseem would be safe there, you know?"
Initial reports indicated that at least one Iraqi, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, was also killed in the strike. According to his friends, Abu was a well-liked figure in his local community, who was known for the "wildly popular" parties he would throw.
"I just loved going to Abu's get-togethers," said Jafar, one of his former neighbors in west Baghdad. "He would give us lots of weapons and we would sometimes go to Mosul or sometimes just use them to kidnap Kuwaitis or to play pranks on our Sunni neighbors, like beheading them."
Jafar said he was "extremely sad" to hear Abu had been killed. "But, you know, that is what you get for hanging out with Iranians," Jafar added.
U.S. military forces have emphasized that the strike was taken in self defense and the tourist was a threat to U.S. personnel.
"As Secretary of Defense Esper has said, we are only taking these actions to protect American troops," a spokesman for U.S. forces told reporters.
"You all know about the protests in Baghdad recently. I can't speak to the details of why we assessed this guy was a threat, but we usually check to make sure there is like, a tweet where someone said 'Death to America' before we kill someone. So this was definitely a bad guy."