Angry demonstrate torch US and British flags on the streets of Tehran today after the death of commander Soleimani

 Vows of ‘crushing revenge’ and ‘global resistance’ by Hezbollah

  • Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force, was killed Friday at Baghdad International Airport
  • Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said ‘Jihad of Resistance will continue with more motivation’
  • Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami said there would be ‘crushing revenge’ for the ‘unjust assassination’ 
  • President Hassan Rouhani vowed that Soleimani would be avenged by Iran and the ‘free nations of the region’
  • Hezbollah said: ‘We will step up the victories of the axis of resistance with the blessing of his pure blood’
  • Soleimani, the highest ranking general in Iran, has shaped Tehran’s foreign policy throughout the Middle East 
  • Missiles obliterated vehicles carrying Soleimani and his Iraqi Shia militia guard near Baghdad airport
  • Militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who helped besiege the US embassy Tuesday, was among the dead 
  • Pentagon says strike necessary to save US lives and deter future attacks by pro-Iran militants in Iraq 

Iranians wept on state TV this morning as Tehran announced three days of national mourning for the terrorist general Qassem Soleimani killed in a US strike at Baghdad International Airport in the early hours of Friday.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned of ‘jihad’ against the ‘criminals who bloodied their foul hands with his blood’, while Iraq‘s prime minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi predicted a ‘devastating war’ will ravage his country.

An Iranian presenter embraced army spokesman Ramezan Sharif during a tearful live broadcast as they announced Soleimani’s death, the general responsible for shaping Iran’s foreign policy throughout the Middle East, he was revered and loved in his homeland.

The drone strike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias in Iraq known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), which besieged the US embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday.

Iraqi prime minister Mahdi decried the assault by the US as ‘a brazen violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and blatant attack on the nation’s dignity.’  

The Pentagon said President Donald 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.’

Khamenei tweeted earlier: ‘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.’

His Defense Minister Amir Hatami vowed a ‘crushing revenge’ for the ‘unjust assassination.’

Tehran has said it will announce its official position on Soleimani’s death in the coming hours, the administration spokesman telling state TV: ‘We will teach such a lesson to the US that Donald Trump and all future presidents of the United States will never forget.’

Iranian TV presenter consoles the army spokesman

An Iranian TV presenter consoles the army spokesman Ramezan Sharif during a live broadcast to announce the death of the general this morning, a man who was revered and loved in his homeland

Qassem Soleimani

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned of 'severe revenge' for 'the criminals who bloodied their foul hands with his blood', while the country's foreign minister called the move a 'dangerous escalation'.

Qassem Soleimani  the highest ranking general in the Iranian military and responsible for shaping Iran’s foreign policy throughout the Middle East, was killed in a drone strike outside Baghdad’s airport in the early hours of Friday. Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned of ‘severe revenge’ for ‘the criminals who bloodied their foul hands with his blood’, while the country’s foreign minister called the move a ‘dangerous escalation’.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned of 'severe revenge' for 'the criminals who bloodied their foul hands with his (Soleimani's) blood', later tweeting that 'Jihad of Resistance will continue with more motivation and definite victory awaits the fighters of this blessed path'

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned of ‘severe revenge’ for ‘the criminals who bloodied their foul hands with his (Soleimani’s) blood’, later tweeting that ‘Jihad of Resistance will continue with more motivation and definite victory awaits the fighters of this blessed path’

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 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)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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’

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.’

President Hassan Rouhani added that Soleimani’s ‘martyrdom … by the aggressor and criminal America has saddened the heart of the nation of Iran and all the nations of the region.’

‘There is no doubt that the great nation of Iran and the other free nations of the region will take revenge for this gruesome crime from criminal America,’ Rouhani added.

Hundreds of Iranians marched towards Khamenei’s compound in central Tehran to convey their condolences.

‘I am not a pro-regime person but I liked Soleimani. He was brave and he loved Iran, I am very sorry for our loss,’ said housewife Mina Khosrozadeh in Tehran.

In Soleimani’s hometown, Kerman, people wearing black gathered in front of his father’s house, crying as they listened to a recitation of verses from the Koran.

‘Heroes never die. It cannot be true. Qassem Soleimani will always be alive,’ said Mohammad Reza Seraj, a high school teacher.

The audacious airstrike is a potential turning point in the Middle East as the U.S. and Iran teeter on the brink of all-out war, and is expected to draw severe retaliation from Iran and and its regional Shiite allies against Israel and American interests.

A Pentagon statement issued to DailyMail.com late Thursday, Washington DC time, said: ‘At the direction of the President, the U.S. military has taken decisive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Quasem Soleimani.’ 

Soon after news of the strike spread, Trump, who is currently at Mar-a-Lago, tweeted an image of an American flag, offering no further remarks or explanation.

The US 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.

‘US 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.

Both vehicles were instantly reduced to smoldering wrecks – killing Soleimani, Muhandis, Jabri and two others who have yet to be identified.

Iranians burn a US flag as tens of thousands flooded the streets of Tehran to mourn the death of Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) general and commander of the Quds Force Qassem Soleimani after Friday prayers

Iranians burn a US flag as tens of thousands flooded the streets of Tehran to mourn the death of Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) general and commander of the Quds Force Qassem Soleimani after Friday prayers

Furious protesters in Tehran torch Israeli and British flags after Friday prayers in the Iranian capital following the news of Soleimani's death

Furious protesters in Tehran torch Israeli and British flags after Friday prayers in the Iranian capital following the news of Soleimani’s death

Tens of thousands of Iranian demonstrators flock in the streets of Tehran to protest American 'crimes' after the death of commander Soleimani

Tens of thousands of Iranian demonstrators flock in the streets of Tehran to protest American ‘crimes’ after the death of commander Soleimani

Angry demonstrate torch US and British flags on the streets of Tehran today after the death of commander Soleimani

Angry demonstrate torch US and British flags on the streets of Tehran today after the death of commander Soleimani

Two officials from the PMF said Soleimani’s body was torn to pieces in the attack, while they did not find the body of al-Muhandis.

A senior politician said Soleimani’s body was identified by the ring he wore. Photos from the scene show a hand with large ring that looks identical to one Soleimani is seen wearing in old photos.

Local militia commander Abu Muntathar al-Hussaini told Reuters: ‘Haj Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were riding in one vehicle when it was struck by two successive guided missiles launched from an American helicopter while they were on their way from the arrivals hall on the road that leads out of Baghdad Airport.’

He said the second vehicle was carrying bodyguards from the PMF and was hit by one rocket.

While American forces did not make it clear how they had tracked Soleimani’s location, he is thought to be kept under near-constant surveillance by US, Saudi and Israeli security forces.

The New York Times reported that Friday’s attack drew upon a combination of highly classified information from informants, electronic intercepts, reconnaissance aircraft and other surveillance techniques.

The Defense Department said that the airstrike was justified to protect American lives. 

‘General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,’ the Pentagon statement said.

The statement added that Soleimani ‘orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months’ including the embassy assault.

Qassem Soleimani (center), the powerful head of Iran¿s Quds Force, was killed in an airstrike at Baghdad International Airport, Iraqi TV said

PMF militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis (center) was also among those killed. He is seen leading recent protests outside the US embassy that turned violent

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)

This photo released by the Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office shows a burning vehicle at the Baghdad International Airport following an airstrike, in Baghdad, Iraq, early Friday

This photo released by the Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office shows a burning vehicle at the Baghdad International Airport following an airstrike, in Baghdad, Iraq, early Friday

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

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

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.

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.

 

Images taken after sunup on Friday show the twisted wreckage left behind by the US missile strike on two cars

 Twisted wreckage left behind by the US missile strike on two cars

Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, responded in a statement calling the U.S. strike an act of terrorism.

‘The US’ act of international terrorism, targeting & assassinating General Soleimani—THE most effective force fighting Daesh (ISIS), Al Nusrah, Al Qaeda et al—is extremely dangerous & a foolish escalation,’ Zarif said.

‘The US bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism,’ he continued.

An advisor to Iran´s President Hassan Rouhani quickly warned of retaliation imminent from Tehran.

‘Trump through his gamble has dragged the U.S. into the most dangerous situation in the region,’ advisor Hessameddin Ashena wrote on the social media app Telegram. ‘Whoever put his foot beyond the red line should be ready to face its consequences.’

A former commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Mohsen Rezaei, on Friday vowed ‘vigorous revenge against America’ for the airstrike.

The security official said the bodies of those killed in the airport attack Friday were burned and difficult to identify.

The official added that Reda may have been at the airport to pick up a group of ‘high-level’ visitors who had arrived from a neighboring country. He declined to provide more information.

The attack came amid tensions with the United States after a New Year’s Eve attack by Iran-backed militias on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

The two-day embassy attack which ended Wednesday prompted Trump to order about 750 U.S. soldiers immediately deployed to the Middle East, with thousands more put on alert for imminent deployment.

The breach at the embassy followed U.S. airstrikes on Sunday that killed 25 fighters of the Iran-backed militia in Iraq, the Kataeb Hezbollah.

The U.S. military said the strikes were in retaliation for last week’s killing of an American contractor in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base that the U.S. blamed on the militia.

U.S. officials have suggested they were prepared to engage in further retaliatory attacks in Iraq.

‘The game has changed,’ Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Thursday, telling reporters that violent acts by Iran-backed Shiite militias in Iraq – including the rocket attack on December 27 that killed one American – will be met with U.S. military force.

He said the Iraqi government has fallen short of its obligation to defend its American partner in the attack on the U.S. embassy.

The developments also represent a major downturn in Iraq-U.S. relations that could further undermine U.S. influence in the region and American troops in Iraq and weaken Washington´s hand in its pressure campaign against Iran.

THE BRINK OF WAR: HOW US TENSIONS WITH IRAN HAVE ESCALATED

An American drone strike on Baghdad airport has killed Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Quds Force and one of the country’s most powerful men, bringing Washington and Tehran to the brink of all-out war.

While the strike marks a sudden and violent escalation of tensions between the two countries, trouble has been brewing for more than a year – ever since the Trump administration tore up the nuclear deal signed under Obama.

Here is the series of events that left the Middle East teetering on a knife-edge:

2018

May 9: Donald Trump announces that the US will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, calling it ‘defective at its core’, and says strict new sanctions will be imposed on Tehran

May 21: The US issues a list of 12 demands that it says Iran must comply with – including the complete abandonment of its nuclear energy program – or else face sanctions. The list is rejected by Tehran

August 7: America imposes the first round of sanctions, including cancelling a multi-billion dollar deal for Boeing aircraft and banning the sale of gold to Tehran

November 5: Second round of sanctions announced, this time against Iranian oil exports – Tehran’s primary source of income – and cutting off access to banking markets

2019

April 8: Donald Trump designates the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s domestic military force, a ‘terrorist group’, imposing travel bans and economic sanctions against its leaders

May 5: National Security Adviser John Bolton announces a Carrier Strike Group and Air Force bombers are being deployed to the region to combat ‘a number of troubling and escalatory indications’

May 8: On the eve of the one-year anniversary of Trump tearing up the deal, Iran says it will stop complying by increasing it stockpiles of Uranium and enriching to near weapons-grade levels

May 12: Four oil tankers belonging to Saudi Arabia, Norway and the UAE are hit by explosions near Fujairah in an attack that America blamed on Tehran

June 13: Two more tankers, this time belonging to Norway and Japan, are rocked by explosions which Washington again attributes to the Iranian regime

June 19: A US Navy drone is shot down by Iranian anti-aircraft missiles over the Strait of Hormuz, prompting Trump to order and then rapidly cancel airstrikes against Iranian targets

July 4: British Marines seize the Grace 1, an Iranian oil tanker which they said was bound for Syria, off the coast of Gibraltar as it sailed into the Mediterranean

July 10: British Heritage tanker is harassed by Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps vessels in the Strait of Hormuz, but are driven back by a Royal Navy warship

July 20: British-flagged tanker Stena Impero is seized by the IRGC and towed to Bandar Abbas, where it is kept under armed guard by gunboats

August 15: Britain agrees to release the Iranian tanker after seeking assurances that it will not head to Syria

September 14: Drones and cruise missiles are used to attack a Saudi oil field at Khurais and the country’s largest refinery at Abquaiq, knocking out a third of the world’s oil supply. The US and Saudis blame Iran, which denies responsibility

September 27: Iran releases the Stena Impero and its crew

October 11: Iranian oil tanker sailing off the coast of Jeddah is rocked by two explosions which Iran says were caused by guided missiles fired by Saudi Arabia