Suleimani Raid: similar drones flown by pilots at Ellsworth

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - An American air strike in Iraq killed Iran's top military mind. President Donald Trump authorizing the drone attack Friday that took out Qassim Suleimani.

MQ-9 Reaper is the same drone used by pilots of the 89th attack squadron stationed at Ellsworth.

"The world's a much safer place today and I can assure you that Americans in the region are much safer today after the demise of Qassim Suleimani," said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The attack was carried out by an MQ-9 Reaper outside the Baghdad International Airport. The president applauding the action.

"Suleimani has been perpetrating acts of terror to destabilize the Middle East for the last 20 years," Trump said Friday night. "What the United States did yesterday should have been done long ago. A lot of lives would have been saved."

The drone used is the same type piloted by airmen stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base. KOTA was granted special access by the 89th squadron commander to tour the facility back in 2018.

"The squadron is comprised of roughly 200-250 people," said Lt. Col. Mike back in 2018, "We have both officers and enlisted and then we are also supported by a series of contractors and government personnel."

It's a complicated operation where the physical unmanned aircraft is stationed and launched from another base, then control is passed over to the pilots at Ellsworth - even then it's a multi-person job.

"There's the pilot and the sensor operator the pilot flies the sensor operator runs the cameras and what not to be able to look at stuff on the ground," Mike said.

The Air Force has not released which squadron carried out the mission in Iraq.

Details surrounding the operation are still developing. The pentagon calling it an attack of opportunity.

"General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region," Said the Department of Defense in a statement. "He had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months – including the attack on December 27th – culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel."

Meanwhile, people in the country are reacting. Protests could be seen throughout Iran showing anger and resentment as well as mourning. The Iranian government has promised "severe revenge".