Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was also killed and several other people were injured
Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the country's Quds Force, along with Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, were killed early on Friday (January 3) in an air strike on their convoy at Baghdad airport, reports Reuters.
Strikes had been carried out against two targets linked to Iran in Baghdad on Thursday, US officials had told the media.
The rockets had landed near the air cargo terminal and had burned two vehicles. Several people were reportedly killed and injured, according to Reuters.
Iraqi paramilitary groups said on Friday that three rockets hit Baghdad International Airport, killing five members of Iraqi paramilitary groups and two "guests."
He had reportedly survived several assassination attempts against him by Western, Israeli and Arab agencies in the last twenty years.
Soleimani became head of the Quds Force in 1998, helping to strengthen Iran's ties with Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government and Shi'ite militia groups in Iraq.
A veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, he had a key role in fighting in Syria and Iraq, where he has helped defeat Islamic State.
The US had Soleimani's Revolutionary Guards Corp designated as a foreign terrorist organization.
Paul Piller, a former US Central Intelligence Agency officer, said that Iran will be under "strong pressure" to strike back.
"Many Iranians will regard this event the same way Americans would regard, say, the assassination of one of the best known and most admired U.S. military leaders. The potential for escalation has suddenly gone up," he added.
Trump had tweeted earlier: "They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat. Happy New Year!"
Republican politicians in the US such as Senator Marco Rubio voiced support for the airstrike, saying in a tweet: "They are entirely to blame for bringing about the dangerous moment now before us."
Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, on the other hand, said that the administration had acted "without congressional approval" and had risked "setting off a potential massive regional war."
According to a Bloomberg media report, the reaction toward the airstrikes outside the government has wavered between a sense of justification and apprehension over Soleimani's killing.
The assault in Baghdad is the latest in a series of violence that have tested the rising hostility of between Iran and the US that began a week before after an American contractor was killed in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base in Kirkuk.