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Reports: US Military Tried but Failed to Kill Iranian Commander in Yemen

FILE - Yemeni Shi'ite Houthis stand on a representation of the U.S. flag while holding posters of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, left, and Qassem Soleimani during a protest against a U.S. airstrike in Iraq that killed them both, in Sanaa, Yemen, Jan. 6, 2020.

U.S. media are reporting that the United States tried but failed to kill a top Iranian commander in Yemen on the same day a U.S. drone strike killed Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani.

The information, first reported by The Washington Post, indicates the operation that killed Soleimani last week was intended to be broader in scope.

U.S. media reports, quoting anonymous U.S. officials, said the Iranian target in Yemen was Abdul Reza Shahlai, a key commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force. The sources did not give further details about the operation.

The Pentagon declined to discuss the reports.

“We have seen the report of a January 2 airstrike in Yemen, which is long understood as a safe space for terrorists and other adversaries to the United States. The Department of Defense does not discuss alleged operations in the region,” said Pentagon spokesman Navy Commander Rebecca Rebarich.

Trump said Thursday that Soleimani, the Iranian general that he ordered killed with a drone strike, had been planning to blow up the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

Trump and his aides have drawn criticism from opposition Democratic lawmakers and some Republicans for not providing specific evidence to back up the claim that Soleimani posed an "imminent threat" at the time he was killed in the Iraqi capital last week.

Trump administration officials have previously blamed Soleimani, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force in Iran, for killing American armed forces, including a U.S. contractor who was killed in December, while fomenting unrest in Iraq and Lebanon.

Iranian officials retaliated for the drone strike that killed Soleimani by firing missiles on January 8 at Iraqi military bases housing U.S. troops. No U.S. troops were killed in the attack.

On Wednesday, Trump gave a White House address in which he concluded that Iran "appears to be standing down" from new conflict with the United States.