Gen. Qassim Soleimani
Iranian Quds Force commander Gen. Qassim Soleimani, seen in September, was reported killed Friday in a strike on the international airport in Baghdad, Iraq.

Iran’s most powerful military commander, Gen Qasem Soleimani, has been killed by a US air strike in Iraq.

According to BBC, the 62-year-old spearheaded Iranian military operations in the Middle East as head of Iran’s elite Quds Force.

He was killed at Baghdad airport, along with other Iran-backed militia figures, early on Friday in a strike ordered by US President Donald Trump.

Mr Trump said the general was “directly and indirectly responsible for the deaths of millions of people”. Soleimani’s killing marks a major escalation in tensions between Washington and Tehran.

Under his leadership, Iran had bolstered Hezbollah in Lebanon and other pro-Iranian militant groups, expanded its military presence in Iraq and Syria and orchestrated Syria’s offensive against rebel groups in the country’s long civil war.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said “severe revenge awaits the criminals” behind the attack. He also announced three days of national mourning.

Demonstrators burn American and British flags during a protest against the assassination of the Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani in Tehran on January 3, 2020

Soleimani was widely seen as the second most powerful figure in Iran, behind the Ayatollah Khamenei. The Quds Force, an elite unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, reported directly to the ayatollah and Soleimani was hailed as a heroic national figure.

The US has called the commander and the Quds Force terrorists and holds them responsible for the deaths of hundreds of US personnel.

President Trump, who was in Florida at the time of the strike, tweeted an image of the American flag shortly after the news broke.

Tweeting again on Friday, Mr Trump said Soleimani had “killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans… and was plotting to kill many more” and “should have been taken out many years ago”.

“While Iran will never be able to properly admit it, Soleimani was both hated and feared within the country,” he said.

A statement from the Pentagon – the headquarters of the US Department of Defense – said Soleimani had been “developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region”.

“This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans,” it added. Soleimani and officials from Iran-backed militias were leaving Baghdad airport in two cars when they were hit by a US drone strike near a cargo area.

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, Jan. 3, 2020. The Pentagon said Thursday that the U.S. military has killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, at the direction of President Donald Trump. (Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office via AP)

The commander had reportedly flown in from Lebanon or Syria. Several missiles struck the convoy and at least seven people are believed to have died.

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Jos Garneo Cephas Sr. has reported as online and broadcast Journalist on Human rights, Civil Society and development issues for the Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS/ELBC) for about nine years. He worked in West Africa for Ghana Daily Guide Newspaper for ten years, as Human Rights Reporter, Liberia Desk Editor, and an international volunteer and Fellow of Journalist for Humana Rights (JHR). He Founded the Communication for Awareness and Development, a Non for Profit International NGO and the Vision Newspaper in Ghana, as publisher, Editor-In-Chief and stringed for the Voice Of America(VOA) at the height of the refugee crisis, covering more than 42,000 Liberian refugees in Ghana including other West Africans for several years in the sub-region. Jos Garneo Cephas Sr. has a BSc in modern-day Development Studies, and AA-Degree in Journalism, Public Relations and Entrepreneurship and Founder and Chief Executive Officer(CEO) of Liberia leading Social enterprise, Heartbeat Tourism for Sustainable Development(HTSD), Liberia Inc. He has numerous publications on opinions and developmental issues for leading Ghanaian and Liberian newspapers and magazines and online, and has provided national and international media consultancies, and is researching for a publication on “Tourism Its Impact and Youth Employment”.

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