The United States’ killing of Iran’s most prominent military commander, Qassem Soleimani, is tantamount to declaring war, Iran’s U.N. ambassador said on Friday.
UN Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi, who represents Iran’s only diplomatic mission within the U.S., said in an interview with CNN that the airstrike ‘is tantamount to opening a war against Iran.’
‘The U.S. has already started a war against Iran, not just an economic war but something beyond that by assassinating one of our top generals,’ Ravanchi said. ‘There will be harsh revenge … The response for a military action is a military action.’
Soleimani, a 62-year-old general who headed elite Quds Forces arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, was regarded as the country’s second most powerful figure after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
In a letter to the UN secretary general earlier on Friday, Ravanchi said the U.S. strike was an act of terrorism and violation of international law, and warned that Iran reserves the right to counter-strike in self defense.
‘We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war,’ the president said in brief remarks at Mar-a-Lago on Friday.
UN Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi, who represents Iran’s only diplomatic mission within the U.S., said in an interview with CNN that the airstrike ‘is tantamount to opening a war against Iran’
Thousands of Iranians take to the streets of Tehran Friday to mourn the death of General Qasem Soleimani during an anti-US demonstration. A massive funeral march for Soleimani will take place on Saturday near the U.S. embassy in Baghdad
Iranian mourners hold an image of Soleimani during a demonstration in Tehran on Friday. Soleimani and pro-Iran Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were killed in a U.S. air strike at Baghdad airport
Pakistani Shiite Muslims burn U.S and Israel’s flags to condemn the death of Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in an airstrike near Baghdad, during a protest in Lahore, Pakistan on Friday
U.S. Marines with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines reinforce the U.S. embassy compound in Baghdad on Friday. The embassy is bracing for further potential violence during funeral marches for Soleimani on Saturday
A U.S. Marine at the embassy looks through the scope of a M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS) on Friday
Meanwhile, funeral marches for Soleimani and a pro-Iran militant leader killed in the attack, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, are set to take place on Saturday in the heavily Shiite neighborhoods near the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
Following a violent attack on the embassy during marches for other militant ‘martyrs’ earlier this week, the U.S. is bracing for the possibility of another assault.
Any attempt by Iran-backed militias to breach the embassy would ‘run into a buzzsaw’ of fire from U.S. defenders, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said earlier this week.
‘We are very confident that the integrity of that embassy is strong and it is highly unlikely to be physically overrun by anyone,’ Milley said at a Pentagon briefing.
The death of the top Iranian security and intelligence officer has sparked concern that tension will escalate in the Middle East and caused U.S. officials to brace for possible retaliatory attacks.
The U.S. military’s force protection condition level for troops in the Middle East has been raised to ‘Charlie,’ signalling that intelligence indicates a terrorist attack is imminent.
A billboard in memory of Qasem Souleimani is seen in Tehran on Friday after the U.S. airstrike in Iraq that killed him
Marchers in Tehran protest the U.S. airstrike in Iraq that killed Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani
The strike has also frayed U.S. relations with Iraq, and that country’s military it was a clear breach of U.S. status-of-forces agreements there.
Iraq’s Ministry of Defense in an official statement called the slain al-Muhandis a ‘hero martyr’ and said he ‘was martyred last night in a cowardly and treacherous attack carried out by American aircraft near Baghdad international airport.’
‘We affirm that what happened is a flagrant violation of Iraqi sovereignty and a clear breach by the American forces of their mandate which is exclusively to fight Islamic State and provide advice and assistance to Iraqi security forces,’ the statement said.
Iraq’s parliament has scheduled an emergency session on Sunday, and is expected to vote overwhelmingly to kick U.S. forces out of the country, where America has maintained a presence ever since the 2003 invasion.
The United States and its allies have suspended training of Iraqi forces due to the increased threat they face in the country, according to the German military.
Trump had tough words in the wake of the airstrike that killed Iran’s top military general and defended his action as necessary for the safety of the United States.
‘Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him. Under my leadership America’s policy is unambiguous to terrorists who harm or intend to harm any American. We will find you. We will eliminate you. We will always protect our diplomats, service members, all Americans and our allies,’ Trump said.
President Trump said Qassem Soleimani (above) was plotting attacks on Americans, caught in the act and terminated
A handout picture provided by the office of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shows him embracing the son of killed Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani
A handout picture provided by the office of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shows him visiting the family of Soleimani
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei with family members of the killed general
President Trump Statement on the death of Qassem Soleimani
Thank you very much and good afternoon. As president my highest and most solemn duty is the defense of our nation and its citizens. Last night, at my direction, the United States military successfully executed a flawless precision strike that killed the number one terrorist anywhere in the world, Qassem Soleimani. Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him.
Under my leadership America’s policy is unambiguous to terrorists who harm or intend to harm any American. We will find you. We will eliminate you. We will always protect our diplomats, service members, all Americans and our allies. For years the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its ruthless Quds Force under Soleimani’s leadership has targeted, injured and murdered hundreds of American civilians and servicemen.
The recent attacks on U.S. targets in Iraq, including rocket strikes that killed an American and injured four American servicemen very badly, as well as a violent assault on our embassy in Baghdad, were carried out at the direction of Soleimani. Soleimani made the death of innocent people his sick passion, contributing to terrorist plots as far away as New Delhi and London. Today we remember and honor the victims of Soleimani’s many atrocities and we take comfort in knowing that his reign of terror is over. Soleimani has been perpetrating acts of terror to destabilize the Middle East for the last 20 years. What the United States did yesterday should have been done long ago. A lot of lives would have been saved. Just recently Soleimani led the brutal repression of protesters in Iran, where more than 1,000 innocent civilians were tortured and killed by their own government.
We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war. I have deep respect for the Iranian people. They are a remarkable people with an incredible heritage and unlimited potential. We do not seek regime change. However, the Iranian regime’s aggression in the region, including the use of proxy fighters to destabilize its neighbors, must end and it must end now. The future belongs to the people of Iran, those who seek peaceful co-existence and cooperation, not the terrorist warlords who plunder their nation to finance bloodshed abroad.
The United States has the best military by far anywhere in the world. We have the best intelligence in the world. If Americans anywhere are threatened, we have all of those targets already fully identified, and I am ready and prepared to take whatever action is necessary. And that in particular refers to Iran. Under my leadership we have destroyed the ISIS territorial caliphate, and recently American special operations forces killed the terrorist leader known as al-Baghdadi. The world is a safer place without these monsters.
America will always pursue the interests of good people, great people, great souls, while seeking peace, harmony and friendship with all of the nations of the world. Thank you, God bless you. God bless our great military, and God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much. Thank you.
And he vowed to take whatever action necessary to combat terrorism.
‘The United States has the best military by far anywhere in the world. We have the best intelligence in the world. If Americans anywhere are threatened, we have all of those targets already fully identified and I am ready and prepared to take whatever action is necessary. And that in particular refers to Iran,’ he said.
‘Under my leadership we have destroyed the ISIS territorial caliphate, and recently American special operations forces killed the terrorist leader known as al-Baghdadi. The world is a safer place without these monsters,’ Trump added.
Later in a rally-like speech at a Miami mega-church he added: ’Qassem Soleimani has been killed and his bloody rampage is now, forever gone. He was plotting attacks against Americans but now we’ve insured his atrocities have been stopped for good.’
The president applauded Thursday’s ‘flawless strike’ at the Baghdad airport – that has thrown the Middle East into turmoil – while reminding the crowd he had killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi three months before.
At the same time as Trump spoke to evangelical supporters, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien told reporters that Soleimani was planning future action in the Middle East - but declined to say what it was.
‘He had just come from Damascus where he was planning attacks on American soldiers, airmen, Marines, sailors and against our diplomats. This strike was aimed at disrupting ongoing attacks that were being planned by Soleimani and deterring future Iranian attacks,’ he said in a phone briefing.
He declined to offer details of what kind of attack was planned, calling the information ‘extraordinarily sensitive.’ He later said that ‘at some point there may be something we can discuss.’
He also said Iranian leadership knew what Soleimani was planning.
‘They know what they were up to. We have the right to self-defense, they understand that,’ he said.
‘This was designed to prevent further blood shed. This was a defensive action,’ O’Brien said of the strike on Soleimani.
He urged Iran to sit down with the United States, to give up its nuclear program, stop its ‘escapades’ in Middle East, stop taking hostages and to ‘behave like a normal nation.’
His lack of definitive information about an imminent threat is likely to be seized on by Democrats already furious that Congress was told nothing about the attack beforehand and has still to be briefed the day after.
And in the wake of Soleimani’s death, the United States is sending nearly 3,000 more Army troops to the Mideast even as officials said there is no indication of an imminent attack in the region.
The troops are from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and will join about 700 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne who were deployed to Kuwait earlier this week after thousands of people stormed the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad.
Trump has talked tough since Soleimani’s death was announced by the Pentagon late Thursday night, boasting that the Iranian general should have been ‘taken out many years ago.’ The president accused him of killing thousands of Americans and claimed the people of Iraq don’t want to be ‘dominated and controlled’ by Iran.
But the fallout from Soleimani’s death was swift.
Tehran vowed ‘harsh retaliation’ for the killing of its most senior military leader and the State Department warned Americans to leave Iraq ‘immediately’ amid fears of conflict in the region. Major U.S. cities went on heightened alert for possible retaliatory action.
The Department of Homeland Security put out a statement on Friday to say there were ‘no specific, credible threats’ against the U.S. but added it is monitoring the situation.
‘While there are currently no specific, credible threats against our homeland, DHS continues to monitor the situation and work with our Federal, State and local partners to ensure the safety of every American,’ Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf said in a statement.
Additionally, U.S. stocks fell about 1 per cent at the market’s opening in the wake of the news while oil prices surged. The price of gold, which investors buy in times of uncertainty, was up 1.6 per cent at $1,552.10 per ounce.
In his justification for the U.S. action, Trump cited Soleimani’s ties to American deaths in the region, his crack down on protestors in Iran, and Iranian threats to its neighbor Iraq.
‘General Qassem Soleimani has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more…but got caught! He was directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people, including the recent large number of PROTESTERS killed in Iran itself,’ the president tweeted Friday morning.
‘While Iran will never be able to properly admit it, Soleimani was both hated and feared within the country. They are not nearly as saddened as the leaders will let the outside world believe. He should have been taken out many years ago!,’ he added.
President Trump also referenced Iran’s interference in Iraq in his explanation for Soleimani’s death. Tehran has sent billions of dollars and many military advisers to Iraq to keep its Shia-led government in power.
The president portrayed himself as a liberator in the region, claiming the people of Iraq didn’t want to ‘dominated and controlled’ by Iranian forces.
The death of Soleimani (left), a figure deeply ingrained in the Iranian regime who many had assumed would be the country’s next leader, brings Iran and America to the brink of all-out war. Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis had been instrumental in leading attacks on the US embassy (pictured right, outside the building)
‘The United States has paid Iraq Billions of Dollars a year, for many years. That is on top of all else we have done for them. The people of Iraq don’t want to be dominated & controlled by Iran, but ultimately, that is their choice. Over the last 15 years, Iran has gained more and more control over Iraq, and the people of Iraq are not happy with that. It will never end well!,’ he tweeted.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo touted the administration’s freedom argument when he went on the morning shows to talk about the airstrike.
‘We have every expectation that people not only in Iraq but in Iran will view the American action last night as giving them freedom,’ Pompeo told CNN Friday morning. ‘Freedom to have the opportunity for success and prosperity for their nations and while the political leadership may not want that, the people in these nations will demand it.’
The death of Soleimani, who led the elite Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, was a blow for Iran and an escalation on Trump’s part of relations with Tehran, which have been strained since the death of an American contractor in Iraq in late December.
Major American cities, including New York and Los Angeles, have stepped up security in the aftermath of the airstrikes to prevent any revenge attacks.
New York’s Police Department is deploying heavily armed officers in key public spaces and The Los Angeles Police Department said – that while there was currently no credible threat to the city – officials were communicating with other security agencies regarding any intelligence that may develop.
The president is in Mar-a-Lago for the holiday season and did not go to his golf course on Friday, which is where he has spent the majority of his days while in Florida.
Earlier, the president taunted Iran in the wake of Soleimani’s death, saying the country ‘never won a war.’
‘Iran never won a war, but never lost a negotiation!,’ the president tweeted on Friday morning in his first response to Soleimani’s death.
It’s unclear what the president meant in his tweet.
He was critical of President Barack Obama’s policy in the region. The Obama administration pushed the 2015 agreement that froze Iran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief as a way to avoid escalating tensions in the region.
President Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018, claiming Obama’s agreement had emboldened Iran to invest in a campaign of violence in the region.
He began a series of punishing new economic sanctions that accumulated into Friday’s military action.
Or his tweet could be seen as an offer to open negotiations with Tehran.
Meanwhile, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei proclaimed his country would avenge the bitter loss of his highest ranking general, while Lebanon’s Tehran-backed Hezbollah said it would ramp up its terror ‘with the blessing of his pure blood.’
The Pentagon said Trump had ordered the ‘decisive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Soleimani’ who was ‘actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.’
Marine One, carrying President Trump to a speech he’s giving in Miami, departs Mar-a-Lago as protesters watch
President Trump boarding Marine One to head to Miami for a speech to evangelicals
Four precision missiles fired from a U.S. drone struck the two cars carrying Soleimani and his entourage, according to U.S. officials. The cars were struck on an access road near the Baghdad airport in the early hours of Friday. Soleimani had reportedly just arrived to Baghdad on a flight from Syria. Airport logs show a Cham Wings flight arriving from Damascus at 12.34am Friday Baghdad time, but it’s unclear whether Soleimani was on that commercial flight or a private charter.
An American airstrike on Baghdad airport has killed Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s powerful Quds force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy-leader of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (pictured, the burning remains of a car that was among a convoy the men had been travelling in)
An image which circulated on Iranian media in the aftermath purporting to show Quds commander Qassem Soleimani’s hand after the strike in the early hours of Friday. Two officials from the Iran-backed People’s Mobilzation Forces (PMF) said Soleimani’s body was torn to pieces in the attack and a senior politician said his body could only be identified by the ring he wore on his left hand. The ring bears strong similarities to the ruby ring worn on Soleimani’s left hand in other photos, however it is not a precise match and fellow victim Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis wore similar jewellery.
House Minority leader Republican Representative Kevin McCarthy shared this image last night at the table with President Donald Trump (right), saying: ‘A memorable and historic evening at The Winter White House. Proud of our President!’ Dan Scavino, the White House Director of Social Media and Assistant to the President sits opposite McCarthy (back to camera) while White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley stands at the table
Protesters in Tehran demonstrate over the U.S. airstrike in Iraq that killed Soleimani
Iraqis perform a mourning prayer for slain Iranian Revolutionary Guards Major General Qasem Soleimani at the Great Mosque of Kufa
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CNN there was a threat of an ‘imminent’ attack in the region but declined to elaborate on details
A massive funeral with thousands all dressed in black lined the streets of Revolutionary Guard General Qassem Soleimani’s hometown of Kerman in Iran today. The commander killed Friday in a US strike, was one of the most popular figures in Iran and seen as a deadly adversary by America and its allies
And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CNN Friday morning there was a threat of ‘imminent’ attack in the region but won’t elaborate on the details.
Putin Reaction to Soleimani’s killing
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in a US drone strike risked ‘aggravating the situation’ in the Middle East.
‘This action can seriously aggravate the situation in the region,’ the Kremlin quoted Putin as saying during a telephone call with French President Emmanuel Macron.
His comments came after China and Russia joined European countries and nations across the world in urging ‘restraint’.
Russia and Iran are key allies in the Middle East.
The decision to launch the air strike ‘saved American lives,’ Pompeo told CNN’s ‘New Day,” adding that ‘dozens, if not hundreds’ of American lives were at risk from ‘imminent’ attacks in which Soleimani was involved.
He also noted the administration is not seeking war with Iran.
‘The president has been pretty clear. We don’t seek war with Iran, but at the same time we are not going to stand by and watch the Iranians escalate and continue to put American lives at risk without responding in a way that disrupts, defends, deters and creates an opportunity to de-escalate this situation,’ he told ‘Fox & Friends.’
Soleimani was among five people ‘torn to shreds’ by four missiles fired from an MQ-9 Reaper drone on two vehicles in the early hours of Friday. The commander was so badly maimed he could only be identified by the ruby ring he wore on his left hand.
The drone strike vaporized Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of the Iran-backed militias in Iraq known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, which besieged the U.S. embassy in Baghdad earlier this week. His body could not be recovered.
CCTV footage filmed close to the airport and shared by Iraqi TV station AhadTV appears to show the moment Soleimani was killed.
It shows a large explosion as one of the two cars was destroyed by precision missiles early on Friday morning.
Brigadier General Hussein Jafari Nia and Major-General Hadi Taremi were named among the dead by the semi-official Fars agency, along with Colonel of the Guards Shahroud Mozaffari Nia and Captain Waheed Zamanian.
Mohammad al-Shibani, Muhandis’s son-in-law, is also said to have died along with Heydar Ali, Muhammed Reza al-Jaberi and Hassan Abdul Hadi, all senior PMF figures, after being struck by one of four American guided missiles fired by a Reaper drone.
Soon after news of the strike spread, Trump tweeted an image of an American flag.
Meanwhile, the State Department issued a warning to Americans in Iraq, telling them to leave ‘immediately’ – going by airline when possible and ‘failing that, to other countries via land.’
Trump retweeted that warning.
The president has not been seen since the attack but House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy posted photos to his Instagram account of his time with Trump at Mar-a-Lago Thursday evening.
‘A memorable and historic evening at The Winter White House. Proud of our President!,’ McCarthy wrote on the series of photos, which included pictures of himself with White House Counselor Jared Kushner, President Trump, White House Social Media Director Dan Scavino, and White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley.
Russia and China rebuked the U.S. for the attack, Moscow warning it was ‘an adventurist step that would lead to growing tensions’ and Beijing urging that ‘peace in the Middle East and the Gulf region should be preserved.’
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Soleimani’s death risked ‘aggravating the situation’ in the Middle East.
Russia and Iran are key allies in the Middle East.
Britain, France and Germany called for ‘stability’ and ‘calm’ in the region, but did not vilify the assassination.
Pompeo confirmed he had spoken to concerned leaders from China, Britain and Germany, while thanking his allies for their recognition ‘of the continuing aggressive threats posed by the Iranian Quds Force.’
It comes as the Iraqi prime minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi warned the rocket strike would ‘spark a devastating war in Iraq,’ adding that the assault by the U.S. was ‘a brazen violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and blatant attack on the nation’s dignity.’
As the sun rose over Baghdad airport, daylight revealed the twisted remains of one of the vehicles the men had been travelling in. In total, a US drone fired four missiles that struck a convoy of cars, killing the two men and their entourage
Images taken after sunup on Friday show the twisted wreckage left behind by the US missile strike on two cars
Russia and China rebuked the US for the attack, Moscow warning it was ‘an adventurist step that would lead to growing tensions’ and Beijing urging that ‘peace in the Middle East and the Gulf region should be preserved.’ US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed he had spoken to concerned leaders from China, Britain and Germany, while thanking his allies for their recognition ‘of the continuing aggressive threats posed by the Iranian Quds Force’
Russian President Vladimir Putin (pictured on Wednesday) has said the killing of an Iranian general in a US drone strike risks ‘aggravating the situation’ in the Middle East
On Capitol Hill, Democratic lawmakers complained they had not been given a head’s up on the attack. It’s traditional for the president to brief the ‘Gang of Eight’ – Congressional leadership and the heads of the Intelligence committees – before taking such an action.
The strike was carried out without an ‘authorization for use of military force’ against Iran and without the consultation of Congress, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
‘The full Congress must be immediately briefed on this serious situation and on the next steps under consideration by the Administration, including the significant escalation of the deployment of additional troops to the region,’ she noted.
Terrorist general with the blood of THOUSANDS on his hands: Qassem Soleimani masterminded the killing of hundreds of US troops in IED attacks, helped Assad slaughter his people in Syria and was ‘more powerful than Iran’s president’
Qassem Soleimani, who was killed Friday in a US strike, was one of the most popular figures in Iran and seen as a deadly adversary by America and its allies.
The 62-year-old head of the Quds, or Jerusalem, Force of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, Soleimani shaped Tehran’s foreign policy throughout the Middle East.
US officials say the Guard under Soleimani taught Iraqi militants how to manufacture and use especially deadly roadside bombs against US troops after the invasion of Iraq.
Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution swept the shah from power and Soleimani joined the Revolutionary Guard in its wake.
He deployed to Iran’s northwest with forces that put down Kurdish unrest following the revolution. In 1980, Iraq invaded Iran and began the two countries long, bloody eight-year war.
Soleimani became known for his opposition to ‘meaningless deaths’ on the battlefield, while still weeping at times with fervor when exhorting his men into combat, embracing each individually.
Soleimani’s charisma propelled him to the senior officer ranks. In 1998, he was named commander of the Quds Force.
His profile rose suddenly when he was pushed forward as the public face of Iran’s intervention in the Syrian conflict from 2013, appearing in battlefield photos, documentaries – and even being featured in a music video and animated film.
Western leaders saw him as central to Iran’s ties with militia groups including Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas.
But Senator Lindsey Graham, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he was briefed on the forth coming attack when he was in Florida in late December.
He is not a member of the ‘Gang of Eight’ but is a close ally of the president’s on Capitol Hill.
‘I was briefed about the potential operation when I was down in Florida,’ he told ‘Fox & Friends’ on Friday morning.
Graham played golf with the president at his Trump International Golf Club West Palm Beach on December 30.
He said it was a pre-emptive move on the part of the United States.
‘The intelligence was very strong that Soleimani was orchestrating chaos in Iraq at our expense and throughout the region. The president was informed of these potential attacks and he acted. This was a defensive strike to neutralize future attacks that were being planned and executed by Soleimani,’ Graham said.
Thousands of Iranian mourners dressed in black flooded the streets of Soleimani’s hometown of Kerman, a revered commander, he was responsible for shaping Iranian foreign policy throughout the Middle East.
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Tehran to protest against the U.S. ‘crimes’ chanting ‘Death to America’, torching the Stars and Stripes and holding up posters of the slain commander.
Khamenei proclaimed: ‘All friends – & enemies – know that Jihad of Resistance will continue with more motivation & definite victory awaits the fighters on this blessed path. The loss of our dear General is bitter. The continuing fight & ultimate victory will be more bitter for the murderers & criminals.’
It comes as Iraqi Shia militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr ordered the reformation of the Mahdi Army which fought against US troops during the invasion in 2003. Sadr had disbanded the group in 2008.
The leader of Lebanon’s Tehran-backed Hezbollah group Hassan Nasrallah announced: ‘We will carry a flag on all battlefields and all fronts and we will step up the victories of the axis of resistance with the blessing of his pure blood.’
Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami also paid tribute to Soleimani, vowing: ‘A crushing revenge will be taken for Soleimani’s unjust assassination.’
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Trump for the strike, saying: ‘Qassem Soleimani is responsible for the death of American citizens and many other innocent people. He was planning more such attacks.’
Announcing his death during a live Iranian-state TV broadcast, a news presenter embraced army spokesman Ramezan Sharif and the pair wept together as they informed the Islamic Republic of Soleimani’s death.
The U.S. embassy in Baghdad said in a statement: ’Due to heightened tensions in Iraq and the region, the US Embassy urges American citizens to heed the January 2020 Travel Advisory and depart Iraq immediately.
‘U.S. citizens should depart via airline while possible, and failing that, to other countries via land.’
The State Department added: ‘Due to Iranian-backed militia attacks at the US Embassy compound, all consular operations are suspended. US citizens should not approach the Embassy.’
The attack unfolded in a precision strike on two cars that were carrying Soleimani and Iraq-based PMF militiamen who were picking him up from the airport.
Soleimani had arrived at the airport on a plane from either Syria or Lebanon around 12.30am when he was met on the tarmac by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of the pro-Iran Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq.
Muhandis pulled up to the aircraft steps in two cars before Soleimani and Mohammed Ridha Jabri, public relations chief for the PMF who had been traveling with him, climbed inside and were driven away.
Moments later, as the cars passed through a cargo area headed for an access road leading out of the airport, the convoy was struck by four missiles fired by an MQ-9 Reaper drone.
Thousands of demonstrators on the streets of the Iranian capital after Friday prayers demonstrate against US ‘crimes’ in Iraq as they mourn the loss of the revered general Qassem Soleimani
Angry demonstrate torch US and British flags on the streets of Tehran today after the death of commander Soleimani
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