Iran awards highest honour to Guards elite force chief


Tehran (AFP)

The commander of the Revolutionary Guards' elite Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, a key figure in the battle against the Islamic State group, has received Iran's highest military award, the country's supreme leader announced Monday.

The major general, whose unit runs foreign operations, is regarded as the mastermind of Iran's military strategy in the region.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei awarded him with the "Order of Zulfaqar", the leader's office tweeted.

Soleimani became the first to receive the award since the 1979 Islamic revolution, according to Tasnim news agency.

The general has been the public face of Iran's support for the Iraqi and Syrian governments in their battles with Islamic State group jihadists.

He reportedly landed in Baghdad only hours after IS captured Iraq's second city Mosul in 2014 and threatened to overrun the capital.

In Islamic tradition, Zulfaqar is the name of the double-pointed sword said to have been given by Prophet Mohammed to his son-in-law Ali.