Iranian media outlets claim "many CIA" officers were killed in a plane crash on Monday. The Taliban initially asserted large numbers of Americans were killed, while Russian media and Iranian media then said a senior CIA officer responsible for killing IRGC general Qasem Soleimani was on board. The claim has been greeted with skepticism.Michael D'Andrea's name began to appear in Farsi media in the wake of the Soleimani killing when articles at Mehr News and Radio Farda claimed he was involved in planning the US operation. Later on January 27, his name appeared again in rumors after the plane crash.
There are many who might have an interest in spreading conspiracies about the Taliban downing high-ranking US intelligence officers. Nevertheless, Iran's Tasnim News Agency ran with the story, quoting Russian sources that said the "assassin of Soleimani was on the plane and [was] killed in the crash." It claims that D'Andrea "is the most prominent figure in the US CIA in the Middle East. He has been in charge of operations in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan."The Taliban was quoted as saying they had shot down the plane. Tasnim refers to D'Andrea as "Ayatollah Mike" and "the Prince of Darkness," relying on old US newspaper clippings. Press TV of Iran has also included the report, claiming top CIA officers were killed and repeating rumors about D'Andrea. But the original reports from the Taliban only spoke of a plane being shot down and some CIA members allegedly being on it. The US says an American E-11A plane was shot down in Ghazni province.