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US says it kills top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in air strike

BAGHDAD: Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force, was killed early on Friday in a US air strike on his convoy at Baghdad airport, the Pentagon said.

Top Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was also killed in the attack, a militia spokesman said.

“This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans,” the Pentagon said in a statement. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards confirmed in a statement that Soleimani was killed.

Strikes had been carried out against two targets linked to Iran in Baghdad on Thursday, US officials earlier told Reuters.

Iraqi paramilitary groups said on Friday that three rockets hit Baghdad International Airport, killing five members of Iraqi paramilitary groups and two “guests”.

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

Soleimani, who has led the foreign arm of the Revolutionary Guards and has had a key role in fighting in Syria and Iraq, acquired celebrity status at home and abroad.

Soleimani became head of the Quds Force in 1998, a position in which he kept a low profile for years while he strengthened Iran’s ties with Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

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