A US strike killed top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani at Baghdad’s international airport Friday, dramatically heightening regional tensions and prompting arch-enemy Tehran to vow “revenge”.
According to AFP, 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.