Iran former envoy in Sanaa Hassan Irloo. January 2, 2021

Iran says Hassan Irloo, evacuated from Yemen over the weekend, died of Covid.

Iran Man In Yemen Suspected To Be IRGC General With $15 Million US Reward


The Iranian envoy to Sanaa who died Tuesday after evacuation to Tehran is suspected to be the Qods Force commander with a $15 million US price tag on his head.


This report has been updated with new information.


Suspicions about the Iranian ambassador's real identity rose to new heights Tuesday after in its obituary, the official news agency (IRNA) said ambassador Hassan Irloo "was also known as General Shahlaei" but later in the evening removed the reference to Shahlaei from its website.

General [Abdolreza] Shahlaei is a mysterious figure never shown in photos in the Iranian media.

Hasan Irloo (Irlu), Iran’s ambassador with Houthi rebels, died Tuesday at aged 63, two days after his repatriation from Yemen on an Iraqi plane in coordination with Saudi Arabia that maintains an air blockade over Yemeni territories controlled by Iran-aligned Houthis. Iran insists he was evacuated from Yemen because he was suffered from Covid-19, but he could not be saved.

"He was one of the commanders of resistance and his pivotal role alongside martyr Ghasem Soleimani in forcing the US out of Iraq (during Obama’s first term) as well as in the expulsion of Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) from Iraq are among his unforgettable feats," IRNA wrote in the obituary which referred to Irloo as a martyr.

Hassan Irloo (L) and image released by the US as Shahlaei (R)

The title shahid (martyr) is usually reserved for those killed in battle and 'resistance' is a term the Islamic Republic uses to describe its allies and proxies in the region.

At Irloo's funeral ceremony Wednesday, deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), Ali Fadavi, also named him as a “fighter in the resistance front" and accused the US and its allies of delaying Irloo’s evacuation from Sanaa and his death.

Irloo was appointed as Iran's ambassador to the Houthi-controlled Yemeni capital, Sanaa, in October where he presented his credentials to Houthi Foreign Minister Hisham Sharaf but how he arrived in Yemen despite the blockade remained a mystery.

The Wall Street Journal in a report last week claimed that Houthis had asked Tehran to remove Irloo from Sanaa. Both Iran and the Houthi leadership denied the report, insisting that the ambassador suffered from Covid and needed to receive medical attention in Iran.

The US State Department Spokesman Ned Price said in a tweet October 21 that Irloo was an IRGC member tied to the Lebanese Hezbollah who had been "smuggled" into Yemen "under the guise of ambassador to the Houthi militia".

In December 2019, the US Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook, announced that the State Department was offering a $15 million reward for information on an Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Commander in Yemen known as Abdul-Reza Shahlaei for his financial activities, networks, and associates. "We remain gravely concerned by his presence in Yemen and potential role in providing advanced weaponry of the kind that we have interdicted to the Houthis," Hook said.

The US Treasury Department in 2011 had accused Shahlaei of coordinating a failed plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US at a cafe in Washington. “Shahlai approved financial allotments ... to help recruit other individuals for the plot, approving $5 million as payment for all of the operations discussed.” Irloo, also a member of Iran's Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), was sanctioned by the US Treasury Department in December 2020 due to his connections to the IRGC's Qods Force.

In January 2020, two unnamed US officials told Reuters that on January 3, 2020 when a US drone killed Qods Commander Qasem Soleimani, another US military unit was tasked with killing a second senior Qods Commander, Abdolreza Shahlai, but he escaped unscathed.

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