At least three “Katyusha” rockets were fired at Baghdad International Airport on Friday, Jan. 3, killing eight people and setting fire to vehicles, Iraqi security officials said. The Iraqi army said the rocket strike was aimed at the Iraqi military’s “Hashed al Shaabi” car column.
Iraqi state television later reported that those killed in the rocket strike include General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy chief of Hashed al Shaabi.
The Hashed is a network of mostly-Shiite armed units, many of whom have very close ties to Tehran but which have been officially incorporated into Iraq’s state security forces. Its deputy leader, Muhandis, has been blacklisted by the United States.
Soleimani has been killed after the command of US President Donald Trump, the US Department of Defense later announced.
“Under the direction of the president, the US military has taken a determined defensive action to protect US personnel abroad by killing Qassem Soleimani,” the Pentagon said.
“General Soleimani was actively working on plans to attack American diplomats and soldiers in Iraq and throughout the region. General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the injuries of thousands and the death of hundreds of American and coalition troops.”
Iran’s high leader Ali Khamenei said Soleimani’s death would be avenged and announced a three-day mourning in the country.
The United States “could reach the brink of enormous conflict in the entire Middle East,” Former US Vice President Joe Biden warned.
“The Tramp’s dangerous escalation has brought us closer to another devastating war in the Middle East that could cost countless lives and trillions of dollars,” Vermont senator and one of the Democratic pre-election favorites Bernie Sanders warned.
The US embassy in Baghdad on Friday called on US citizens to leave Iraq immediately because of fears of revenge.
In its security alert, the US embassy said: “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.”
“US citizens should depart via airline while possible, and failing that, to other countries via land.”