Iran Commander Qasem Soleimani Killed in US strike, Ayatollah Vows ‘Severe Revenge’     

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BAGHDAD: Amid heightened tensions between US and Iran, top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani was killed on Friday on the orders of US President Donald Trump in a strike on Baghdad's international airport, the Pentagon said.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed to take "severe revenge" for Soleimani's death and has declared three days of mourning.

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. 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.

Soleimani headed the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force and also served as Iran's point man on Iraq, visiting the country in times of turmoil.
Both were sanctioned by the United States.

Meanwhile, Iraqis who have demonstrated for months against a government they see as beholden to Iran broke into song and dance Friday after a US strike killed a top Iranian commander.

"This is God's revenge for the blood of those killed," one added, after nearly 460 people were killed in violence that many demonstrators have blamed on Iran-backed security forces.

The US Congress complained that no prior notice was given about the strike as Republican lawmakers came out strongly in support of the strike. Democrats, on the other hand, severely criticised and pointed out that the move is a sign of Washington's polarisation ahead of this year's presidential elections.

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