Iran Revolutionary Guard commander Soleimani killed in US strike at Baghdad

Iran Revolutionary Guard commander Soleimani killed in US strike at Baghdad
Iran Revolutionary Guard commander Soleimani killed in US strike at Baghdad

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BAGHDAD — Top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani was killed Friday in a US strike on Baghdad's international airport, Iran and the US confirmed, in a dramatic escalation of tensions between the two countries.

The Pentagon said US President Donald ordered Soleimani's "killing," after a pro-Iran mob this week laid siege to the US embassy. Following Soleimani's death, Trump tweeted an image of the US flag without any further explanation.

Early Friday, a volley of missiles hit Baghdad's international airport, striking a convoy belonging to the Hashed al-Shaabi, an Iraqi force with close ties to Iran.

Just a few hours later, Iranian state television carried a statement by the Revolutionary Guard Corps saying Soleimani "was martyred in an attack by America on Baghdad airport this morning."

The Hashed confirmed that both Soleimani and its deputy chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were killed in what it said was a "US strike."

"The deputy head of the Hashed, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and head of the Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, were killed in a US strike that targeted their car on the Baghdad International Airport road," it said.

Muhandis was the Hashed's deputy chief but widely recognised as the real shot-caller within the group.

Soleimani headed the 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.

The developments come after an unprecedented attack on the US mission in Baghdad.

A mob of Hashed supporters surrounded the US embassy on Tuesday in outrage over American air strikes that killed 25 fighters from the network's hardline Kataeb Hezbollah faction, which is backed by Iran.

Trump had blamed Iran for a spate of rocket attacks targeting US forces as well as the siege at the embassy, saying: "They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat."

On Thursday, US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper told reporters there could be more attacks from Iran-backed groups but vowed American forces would respond.

"We are prepared to exercise self-defense, and we are prepared to deter further bad behavior from these groups, all of which are sponsored, directed and resourced by Iran," he said.

Oil prices soared following Friday's attack, with Brent surging 4.4 percent to $69.16 and WTI jumping 4.3 percent to 63.84. — AFP


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