Iran vows retaliation after US kills top general in Baghdad strike

Top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani has been killed by a US strike at Baghdad’s international airport Friday, dramatically heightening regional tensions and prompting arch enemy Tehran to vow “revenge”.
The Pentagon said US President Donald Trump had ordered Soleimani’s “killing” after a pro-Iran mob this week laid siege to the US embassy in the Iraqi capital.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei swiftly vowed “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 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, Iran’s 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.
Soleimani headed the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force foreign operations arm and also served as Iran’s pointman on Iraq, visiting the country in times of turmoil.
Muhandis was the Hashed’s deputy chief, but was widely recognised as the real shot-caller within the group.
Both were sanctioned by the United States.
An Iraqi official told AFP that Muhandis had gone to Baghdad airport to pick up Soleimani, “which is something he usually doesn’t do”.
The pair will be buried on Saturday, and Iraq’s parliament is set to hold an emergency meeting on the strike on the same day.
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.
The Iraqi prime minister said the strike was a “flagrant violation” of a security accord with the US, warning it would “spark a devastating war in Iraq”.
A paramilitary group, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, urged its fighters to be on high alert while militiaman-turned-cleric Moqtada Sadr reactivated his Mahdi Army, nearly a decade after dissolving the notoriously anti-American force.
The US had acted in response to a rocket attack days earlier that had killed an American contractor working in Iraq.
Trump had blamed Iran for a spate of rocket attacks targeting US forces as well as the embassy siege, saying: “They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat.”

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