At least three Katyusha rockets were fired at Baghdad International Airport on January 3, Friday, that killed four people and destroyed two vehicles. Among those killed is Iranian Major-General Qasem Soleimani, the head of the elite Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The attack is bound to heighten tensions between United States and Iran, with a neutral Iraq, caught in the middle.
The Pentagon confirmed the killing of Soleimani, a top military general who reports directly to the Iranian supreme leader. "At the direction of the President, the US military has taken decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani," the Pentagon statement said.
"This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans. The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world," the statement added.
Friday's attack at Baghdad International Airport
Three Katyusha rockets killed at least four, injured several others and destroyed two cars, Iraqi security officials said. The exact number of those killed is still unclear. Among those killed are members of an Iraqi paramilitary force and two 'high-profile guests'. Among those killed is top Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani, Iraqi media has confirmed.
According to Iraq's Security Media Cell, which releases information regarding Iraqi security, the rockets landed near the airport's cargo hall, Associated Press reported. According to several reports, the attack is a targeted one and was possibly carried out by United States, amid heightened tensions between United States and Iran.
United States-Iran relations, with Iraq caught in the midst
Friday's attack comes after a series of clashes between United States and Iran-backed rebel groups in Iraq. A rocket attack on December 27 [Friday] at Iraqi military base at Kirkuk left a US contractor dead and several Iraqi and American soldiers injured.
The US retaliated on Sunday, with airstrikes that killed 25 Iran-backed Kataeb Hezbollah fighters, whom it blamed for the Friday's [December 27] attack. As a result, thousands of Iraqi protesters attacked the US embassy in Baghdad, set the front wall on fire, chanted "Death to America!" and demanded ouster of US troops from Iraq.
United States blamed Iran for the attack on its embassy. On Tuesday, it said that it would deploy additional troops in Iraq, to protect its interest in the conflict-ridden nation.
U.S. President threatened of retaliation, when he said that Iran would pay a "very BIG PRICE!", for it.
To this, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini replied "You can't do anything". "If you [United States] were logical —which you're not— you'd see that your crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan, have made nations hate you", he further added.