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Soleimani killed in strike: Latest updates on US-Iran tensions

AFP, Reuters
Filed on January 3, 2020 | Last updated on January 3, 2020 at 01.20 pm
Soleimani, US, Iran tensions, Mike Pompeo, Qassem Soleimani, US, Iran, trump, Iraq, Adel Abdul Mahd

The pre-dawn developments mark the most major escalation yet in a feared proxy war between Iran and the US on Iraqi soil.

Top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani was killed Friday in a US strike on Baghdad's international airport, Iran and the US confirmed, in a dramatic escalation of tensions between the two countries.

Following Soleimani's death, Trump tweeted an image of the US flag without any further explanation.

The pre-dawn developments mark the most major escalation yet in a feared proxy war between Iran and the US on Iraqi soil.

The latest on the US airstrike that killed Iran's top general:

US defence official says 'precision drone strike' killed Soleimani

US drone carried out a "precision strike" to kill senior Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi paramilitary chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis on Friday, a US defence official told AFP.

"A precision drone strike hit two vehicles at Baghdad airport," the official said. 

EU chief Michel says Iraq violence 'has to stop'

The president of the European Council, who represents EU leaders in Brussels, on Friday warned against further escalation in Iraq . "The cycle of violence, provocations and retaliations which we have witnessed In Iraq over the past few weeks has to stop," former Belgian premier Charles Michel said.

"Further escalation must be avoided at all cost," he added.

Germany orders troops in Iraq to stay on bases

Germany's defence ministry says its soldiers who help train local forces in Iraq have been ordered not to leave their bases.

Germany currently has 130 soldiers in Iraq. Defense ministry spokeswoman Christina Routsi said the troops "will have a restriction ... no movement outside military facilities in Taji and Baghdad."

Routsi said the training of Iraqi troops will continue.

France, Netherlands issue warnings to citizens

France urged its citizens in Iran to stay away from public gatherings and the Netherlands told Dutch nationals to leave Baghdad.

"Three days of mourning have been declared after the death of General Soleimani. In this context, we recommend French citizens to stay away from any gatherings and to behave with prudence and discretion and abstain from taking pictures in public spaces," France's embassy in Tehran said on Twitter.

The Dutch Foreign Ministry told Dutch citizens to leave Baghdad "if that is possible in a safe manner."

"Unrest and violence have increased in Baghdad, and around the airport. The situation is unpredictable," the Dutch ministry said in a statement.

Bolton congratulates for 'eliminating' Soleimani

Former US national security adviser John Bolton is congratulating all involved for "eliminating" Iran's top military commander.

In a Twitter post Friday, Bolton adds that "long in the making, this was a decisive blow against Iran's malign Quds Force activities worldwide. Hope this is the first step to regime change in Tehran."

UAE calls for wisdom to avert confrontation

The UAE of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said on Friday that wisdom and political solutions must prevail over confrontation and escalation, in comments published on Twitter.

Iran names Esmail Qaani new Quds chief

Iran's supreme leader appointed Esmail Qaani as the new head of the Revolutionary Guards' foreign operations arm after its commander was killed.

"Following the martyrdom of the glorious general haj Qasem Soleimani, I name Brigadier General Esmail Qaani as the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a statement posted on his official website.

Britain urges de-escalation

British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab urged all parties to de-escalate after US killed Qassem Soleimani.

"We have always recognised the aggressive threat posed by the Iranian Quds force led by Qasem Soleimani. Following his death, we urge all parties to de-escalate. Further conflict is in none of our interests," he said in an emailed statement.

The leader of the main opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, also called for de-escalation, and urged Britain to "stand up to the belligerent actions and rhetoric coming from the United States."

No delays to fights from Baghdad airport

Iraq's civil aviation authority said there would be no delays to any flights from Baghdad international airport, state TV reported, hours after the US carried out an air strike on the airport.

Netanyahu to cut short trip to Greece

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to cut short his trip to Greece following the assassination of Major-General Qassem Soleimani, said an official in Netanyahu's office.

Israel Army Radio reported that the country's military had gone on heightened alert, fearing retaliation by Iran or its proxies after the killing of Soleimani.

Netanyahu was in Athens following the deal signed by Greece, Cyprus and Israel on Thursday to build a 1,900km subsea pipeline to carry natural gas from the eastern Mediterranean's rapidly developing gas fields to Europe.

US embassy urges citizens to depart Iraq immediately

A State Department statement on Friday cites "heightened tensions in Iraq and the region." Iran has vowed "harsh retaliation" after a US airstrike killed Iran's top military commander in Baghdad.

The State Department adds that "due to Iranian-backed militia attacks at the US Embassy compound, all consular operations are suspended. US citizens should not approach the Embassy."

Iraqi PM condemns US killing of Soleimani

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi condemned the assassination of Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis in Baghdad.

The air strike on Baghdad airport is an act of aggression on Iraq and breach of its sovereignty that will lead to war in Iraq, the region, and the world, he said in a statement.

The strike also violated the conditions of US military presence in Iraq and should be met with legislation that safeguards Iraq's security and sovereignty, he added. He called on parliament to convene in an extraordinary session.

Iraq's Sadr mourns Soleimani

Populist Iraqi cleric Moqtada Al Sadr mourned on the killing of Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leaders and said his militias were ready to defend Iraq.

"As the patron of the patriotic Iraqi resistance I give the order for all mujahideen, especially the Mehdi Army, Promised Day Brigade, and all patriotic and disciplined groups to be ready to protect Iraq," he said in a statement. Sadr called on all sides to behave with "wisdom and shrewdness" however.

Iraq Hashed commander calls all fighters to 'be ready'

A commander in Iraq's Hashed Al Shaabi military force called its fighters to be on alert  following a US strike that killed Qasem Soleimani.

"All resistance fighters must be ready, as an upcoming conquest and a great victory await us," said Qais Al Khazali, the head of Asaib Ahl Al Haq, in a handwritten note seen by AFP.


Democrats call US killing of Iranian general 'reckless'

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden says President Donald Trump has "tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox" with the targeted killing of Iran's top general in an airstrike.

The former vice president joined other Democratic White House hopefuls in criticising Trump's order, saying it could leave the US "on the brink of a major conflict across the Middle East."

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders released a statement saying, "Trump's dangerous escalation brings us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East that could cost countless lives and trillions more dollars."

Democrats acknowledged the threat posed by Soleimani, with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren calling him "a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans. Trump's "reckless move escalates the situation with Iran and increases the likelihood of more deaths and new Middle East conflict."

The attack also drew criticism from Democrats who aren't running for president.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the administration conducted the airstrike without consultation of Congress or an authorisation for use of military force against Iran. She said it "risks provoking further dangerous escalation of violence."

But Republicans on Capitol Hill stood behind Trump. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said: "I appreciate President Trump's bold action against Iranian aggression. To the Iranian government: if you want more, you will get more."

And Sen. James Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said: "America does not and should not seek war, but it will respond in kind to those who threaten our citizens, soldiers and friends - as the President has long promised. De-escalation is preferable and possible - but only if our adversaries choose it."

Rouhani says Iran more determined to resist US

Iran will be more determined to resist the United States, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Friday, in response to the killing of Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani in Iraq, Iranian state television reported.

"Soleimani's martyrdom will make Iran more decisive to resist America's expansionism and to defend our Islamic values. With no doubt, Iran and other freedom-seeking countries in the region will take his revenge," said Rouhani in a statement.

Iraqis 'dancing in the street' after Soleimani death: Pompeo

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo posted a video on Twitter he said showed Iraqis "dancing in the street" over the killing of top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani by the US.

"Iraqis - Iraqis - dancing in the street for freedom; thankful that General Soleimani is no more," Pompeo wrote, alongside footage of scores of people running along a road waving what appeared to be Iraqi flags and other banners.

Iran supreme leader vows 'severe revenge'

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed "severe revenge" after the US killed General Qasem Soleimani.

"Martyrdom was the reward for his ceaseless efforts in all these years," Khamenei said on his Farsi-language Twitter account in reference to Soleimani, also declaring three days of mourning.

"With him gone, God willing, his work and his path will not be stopped, but severe revenge awaits the criminals who bloodied their foul hands with his blood and other martyrs' in last night's incident."

Funeral for militiamen to be held on Saturday

Formal funeral processions for militiamen killed in a US air strike on Baghdad airport will take place on Saturday, Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces umbrella grouping of militia groups said in a statement on Friday.

The United States killed Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force and spearhead of Iran's spreading military influence in the Middle East, on Friday in an air strike at Baghdad airport, the Pentagon and Iran said.

Top Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis, an adviser to Soleimani, was also killed in the attack, a militia spokesman said.

US responsible for consequences of "rogue adventurism: Iran's Zarif

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Friday the assassination of Iran Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani was, "an extremely dangerous and foolish escalation."

"The US bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism," he said in a post on Twitter.

Soleimani was developing plans to attack Americans

The Pentagon said Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack Americans in Iraq and the Middle East.

"At the direction of the President, the US military has taken decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad by killing Qassem Soleimani," the Pentagon said in a statement.

"This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans," it said, adding that the United States would continue to take necessary action to protect Americans and interests around the world.

The Pentagon said that Soleimani had "orchestrated" attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the past few months and approved the "attacks" on the US embassy in Baghdad this week.

Gold hits 4-month high as tensions flare in Middle East

Gold prices climbed to a four-month high on Friday, as tensions mounted in the Middle East after a senior Iranian military official was killed in a US air strike, while a weaker dollar also provided some support to the metal.

News from the Middle East along with some technical buying and a weaker dollar is supporting gold prices today," said Benjamin Lu, analyst at Phillip Futures.

Spot gold hit its highest since Sept. 5 at $1,540.48 and was up 0.6 per cent at $1,538.42 per ounce by 0250 GMT. US gold futures gained 0.9 per cent to $1,541.20 per ounce.  For the week, spot gold has gained 1.9 per cent, heading for a fourth consecutive weekly increase.

Asian shares stumble, oil surges after US air strikes in Iraq

Asian shares fell on Friday, erasing early gains, while oil prices spiked after US air strikes in Iraq killed a top Iranian commander, heightening geopolitical tensions.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan had touched its highest point since June 15, 2018 in early trade, but fell after reports of the air strike emerged. It was last down 0.26 per cent.

China's CSI300 index, one of the world's best-performing indexes last year, also turned negative, losing 0.25 per cent. Australian shares were 0.66 per cent higher, but that was off earlier highs.

"It remains very unclear exactly what impact (the US strikes) could have on the equity market," said Tapas Strickland, director of economics and markets at National Australia Bank.

* MSCI Asia ex-Japan turns negative, erases early gains

* Brent crude surges more than 3%

Trump ordered killing of Soleimani, confirms Pentagon

Trump ordered the killing of Soleimani, the Pentagon said.

"General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region. General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more," the Department of Defense said.

"At the direction of the President, the US military has taken decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization," the Pentagon said.

"This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans," it added.

"General Soleimani also approved the attacks on the US Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week," it said.

Former Iran Guards chief vows "vigorous revenge against America"

A former commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Mohsen Rezaei, on Friday vowed "vigorous revenge against America" for the killing of Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force.

"Martyr Lieutenant General Qassem Suleimani joined his martyred brothers, but we will take vigorous revenge on America," Rezaei, who is now the secretary of a powerful state body, said in a post on Twitter.

Iran Guards confirm Soleimani 'martyred' in Baghdad

Iran's Revolutionary Guards confirmed in a statement read out on state television that the commander of its Quds unit Qasem Soleimani was killed by US forces in Baghdad.

"The Revolutionary Guards announces that the glorious commander of Islam, haj Qasem Soleimani, following a life of servitude, was martyred in an attack by America on Baghdad airport this morning," said the report.

Strikes against two targets linked to Iran: US

Strikes have been carried out against two targets linked to Iran in Baghdad on Thursday, US officials said.

The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, declined to give any further details.

Rockets hit Baghdad airport

Three rockets hit Baghdad International Airport killing five members of Iraqi paramilitary groups and two "guests", Iraqi paramilitary groups said on Friday.

The Katyusha rockets landed near the air cargo terminal, burning two vehicles, killing and injuring several people.

Iraqi paramilitary groups said five of their members and two "guests" were killed in the airstrike on their vehicles inside Baghdad International Airport, militia sources reported on early Friday.

The militia members were hosting "important guests" at Baghdad airport who were being driven in two militia vehicles that were struck by two rockets, said the militia sources. Two militia sources said the two guests were also killed in the attack but declined to identify them.

Police and health sources said that at least five people were killed and nine wounded.


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