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US targeted second Iran commander in Yemen, but failed

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WASHINGTON: The US military unsuccessfully tried to kill a senior Iranian military official in Yemen on the same day a drone strike killed General Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s most powerful commander, according to American officials.

The disclosure of a second mission indicated that the Trump administration had plans for a broader campaign than was previously known, intended to cripple Iran’s ability to carry out proxy wars in other countries. After Iran’s retaliatory missile strikes on Iraqi bases that host US troops, both Washington and Tehran appear to have stepped back from escalating the conflict further, at least for now.

The unsuccessful airstrike in Yemen was aimed at Abdul Reza Shahlai, an official with Iran’s Quds Force, a potent paramilitary organisation that Suleimani had led. Shahlai was known as a main organizer of financing for Shiite militias in the region.

President Donald Trump approved the strike against Shahlai in the same period that he authorised the strike against Suleimani on January 3, although it was unclear if both attacks occurred concurrently.

Shahlai and Suleimani were two of several Iranian officials the administration targeted in an effort to halt Iran-backed attacks on sites with Americans and to deter Iran from ramping up aggression in the region, American officials said.

The United States had offered a $15 million reward for information about Shahlai. The announcement of the reward accused him of involvement in attacks on US allies, including a failed 2011 plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the US.

On Friday, Trump expanded his description of the threat from Iran that he said prompted the strike on Suleimani, saying Iran had planned to attack multiple embassies across the Middle East, including the US Embassy in Baghdad.

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