US President Donald Trump gave a minute-to-minute account of the US drone strike that killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani to a Republican fundraising dinner, according to reports by local media.
- According to audio obtained by CNN, Mr Trump said slain Iranian General Qassem Soleimani was saying “bad things about our country”
- Mr Trump said he was told minute by minute how close General Soleimani was to death
- Tensions between Iran and the US have escalated since the killing
CNN said it had obtained audio of Mr Trump’s remarks from the dinner on Friday night (local time) where he recounts monitoring the strikes from the White House Situation Room when General Soleimani was killed.
The January 3 killing of General Soleimani at Baghdad airport prompted Iran to retaliate with missile strikes against US forces in Iraq days later and almost triggered a broad war between the two countries.
The President spoke in a ballroom at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, at a Republican event that raised $10 million for Mr Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign and for the Republican National Committee.
Reporters were not allowed in for the event, but CNN said it obtained an audio recording of Mr Trump’s remarks. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“They’re together sir,” Mr Trump said military officials told him.
“Sir, they have two minutes and 11 seconds. No emotion. ‘Two minutes and 11 seconds to live, sir. They’re in the car, they’re in an armoured vehicle. Sir, they have approximately one minute to live, sir. 30 seconds. 10, nine, eight …'”
“Then, all of a sudden, boom,” he said. “‘They’re gone, sir. Cutting off.'”
“I said, ‘where is this guy?'” Mr Trump continued. “That was the last I heard from him.”
It is the most detailed account that Mr Trump has given of the drone strike.
The action has drawn criticism from some US politicians because neither the President nor his advisers have provided public information to back up their statements that General Soleimani presented an “imminent” threat to Americans in the region.
CNN said that in the audio, Mr Trump did not repeat that General Soleimani was an imminent threat, but Mr Trump said General Soleimani was “saying bad things about our country” before the strike, which led to his decision to authorise his killing.
“How much of this s*** do we have to listen to?” Mr Trump asked in the audio. “How much are we going to listen to?”
In response to the General’s killing, Iran launched a barrage of ballistic missiles targeting US troops in Iraq. The US has since said that 11 troops were injured in that attack and were treated for concussion.
After the strike, Iran mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane as it braced for possible American retaliation.
All 176 people were killed when the jet crashed shortly after taking off from Tehran early on January 8.
American allies have avoided blaming the Trump administration, but Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the crash victims would be alive today if tensions had not escalated in the region.