CIA man ‘Dark Prince’ behind Soleimani attack killed in crash?

Updated on Jan 29, 2020 02:27 AM IST
Colonel sonny Leggett, a spokesperson for US forces in Afghanistan, has confirmed the crashed plane was American, a Bombardier E-11A, but said the cause of the crash was being investigated and they were no indications yet it was caused by enemy fire.
The wreckage of an airplane is seen after a crash in Deh Yak district of Ghazni province, Afghanistan.(Photo: REUTERS)
The wreckage of an airplane is seen after a crash in Deh Yak district of Ghazni province, Afghanistan.(Photo: REUTERS)
Hindustan Times, Washington | ByYashwant Raj

Iranian media is reporting that a top CIA official who led the hunt for Osama bin Laden and is said to have planned the drone strike that killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani might have been among those killed when a US surveillance plane carrying them crashed in Ghazni, Afghanistan Monday. No evidence was cited in support of these claims.

There has been no response to these reports from US authorities and comments were awaited. Colonel sonny Leggett, a spokesperson for US forces in Afghanistan, has confirmed the crashed plane was American, a Bombardier E-11A, but said the cause of the crash was being investigated and they were no indications yet it was caused by enemy fire. Reuters reported Tuesday the United States had recovered the remains of an unspecified number of individuals from the wreckage site. But they have not been identified yet. The death of CIA officers in the crash was first claimed by the Taliban, who control that region. Their spokesperson said in a statement on Monday “multiple CIA officials were killed” in the crash. But no names, ranks or the number of victims were specified. Casualty figures have ranged from two to seven in reports.

But Iranian media has named Michael D’Andrea, a top CIA official who has also been called the “Dark Prince” and “Ayatollah Mike”, as one of these officers. BBC Monitoring, which tracks news reports around the world, said Tuesday morning that Iran’s State TV, which is government-run, was claiming the officer was killed in the crash, and had used in the report the image of the actor who played a character based on him in “Zero Dark Thirty”, a film about the killing of bin Laden in Pakistan’s Abbottabad in 2011. The State TV report also said D’Andrea had masterminded the drone strike on Soleimani. Veterans Today, a website that describes itself as an independent alternative journal on US foreign policy, also claimed, citing Russian intelligence sources, D’Andrea was among the victims. This report was cited by other Iranian news outlets .

Iran’s Tasnim news also cited Russian sources to say the “assassin of Soleimani was on the plane and killed in the crash”.

D’Andrea as named to head the CIA’s Iran operations in 2017, which was taken to signal the start of a tougher posture taken by the Trump administration on Iran. The president would shortly withdraw the US from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also called the Iran nuclear deal.

D’Andrea led the manhunt for bin Laden and oversaw the American drone campaign that is understood to have killed thousands of terrorists and hundreds of civilians, according to a 2017 news report by the New York Times, which had subsequently been criticized for naming a covert operative. Security officials and experts on the region have called for caution with regards to claims about in connection to the crash or reports that suggested the plane was brought down by enemy. “We should wait for US confirmation, or denial,” said one of them.

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