Iran vowed harsh revenge after the United States killed Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force and architect of Iran’s spreading military influence in the Middle East, in an air strike on Friday at Baghdad airport.
Soleimani’s killing, authorized by President Donald Trump, marked a dramatic escalation in the regional “shadow war” between Iran and the United States and its allies, principally Israel and Saudi Arabia.
|Iran vows revenge after U.S. kills top Iranian commander Soleimani
Top Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an adviser to Soleimani, was also killed in the attack.
Iran has been locked in a long conflict with the United States that escalated sharply last week with an attack on the U.S. embassy in Iraq by pro-Iranian militiamen following a U.S. air raid on the Kataib Hezbollah militia, founded by Muhandis.
“At the direction of the president, the U.S. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qassem Soleimani,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
“This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans,” it added.
U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said was killed in a drone strike. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said he was killed in an attack by American helicopters.
Iraqi paramilitary groups said three rockets landed near Baghdad airport’s cargo terminal, hitting two vehicles and killing five Iraqi paramilitary men and two “guests”.
Pictures showed burning debris on an airport road.