Iran commander Qasem Soleimani killed in US strike on Baghdad
Top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani was killed Friday in a US strike on Baghdad’s international airport, prompting Tehran to vow “revenge”, dramatically upping the stakes in bitter tensions between Tehran and Washington.
The Pentagon said US President Donald Trump ordered Soleimani’s “killing”, after a pro-Iran mob this week laid siege to the US embassy.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei swiftly vowed to take “severe revenge” for Soleimani’s death, the biggest escalation yet in a feared proxy war between Iran and the US on Iraqi soil.
As the US embassy urged all American citizens to leave Iraq “immediately”, Trump tweeted out a picture of the US flag without any explanation.
Early Friday, a volley of missiles hit Baghdad’s international airport, striking a convoy belonging to the Hashed al-Shaabi, an Iraqi paramilitary force with close ties to Iran.
Just a few hours later, the Revolutionary Guard Corps announced Soleimani “was martyred in an attack by America on Baghdad airport this morning.”
The Hashed confirmed both Soleimani and its deputy chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were killed in what it said was a “US strike that targeted their car on the Baghdad International Airport road.”
The Hashed is a network of mostly-Shiite armed units, many of whom have close ties to Tehran but which have been officially incorporated into Iraq’s state security forces.
– ‘Major decapitation strike’ –
Muhandis was the Hashed’s deputy chief, but was widely recognised as the real shot-caller within the group.
Soleimani headed the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force and also served as Iran’s pointman on Iraq, visiting the country in times of turmoil.
Both were sanctioned by the United States.
The Pentagon said Soleimani had been “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”
It said it took “decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani,” but did not specify how.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif slammed the US strike as “extremely dangerous and a foolish escalation,” as Khamenei declared three days of mourning……read more