Iran’s most powerful military commander, General Qasem Soleimani, has been killed by a US air strike in Iraq, the BBC reports.
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, alongside local Iran-backed militias, early on Friday in a strike ordered by US President Donald Trump.
Gen Soleimani’s killing marks a major escalation in tensions between Washington and Tehran.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said “severe revenge awaits the criminals” behind the attack. He also announced three days of national mourning.
Gen Soleimani was widely seen as the second most powerful figure in Iran behind the Ayatollah Khamenei. His Quds Force, an elite unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, reported directly to the Ayatollah and he was hailed as a heroic national figure.
But the US has called the commander and the Quds Force terrorists and holds them responsible for the deaths of hundreds of US personnel.
A statement from the Pentagon said Gen Soleimani “was actively 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.