Top Iran commander Qassem Soleimani killed in US strike on Baghdad

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BAGHDAD: Top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani was killed Friday in a US strike on Baghdad´s international airport, Iran and the US confirmed, in the most dramatic episode yet of escalating tensions between the two countries.

The Pentagon said US President Donald Trump ordered Soleimani’s “killing,” after a pro-Iran mob this week laid siege to the US embassy. Declaring three days of mourning across the country, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed to take “severe revenge” for Soleimani´s death.

Trump tweeted out a picture of the US flag without any explanation, as the pre-dawn developments marked the most major escalation yet in a feared proxy war between Iran and the US on Iraqi soil.

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, the 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 armed units, many of whom have close ties to Tehran but which have been officially incorporated into Iraq´s state security forces.

The units joined forces to fight the Islamic State group in 2014, after many of them built up years of fighting experience during Iraq´s war years, including against the US.

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