United States urges citizens to leave Iraq immediately

The State Department issued a security alert early Friday morning urging Americans in Iraq to leave the country immediately, for fear of fallout from a US strike that killed top Iranian commander of the Islamic republic’s Quds Force, General Qasem Soleimani.

“US citizens should depart via airline while possible, and failing that, to other countries via land,” the US embassy said in a statement.

The alert also said all consular operations are suspended at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad “Due to Iranian-backed militia attacks at the U.S. Embassy compound.”

“U.S. citizens should not approach the Embassy,” the alert said.

Soleimani was one of the most popular figures in Iran and seen as a deadly adversary by America and its allies. Top Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an adviser to Soleimani, was also killed in the attack. Soleimani’s death is widely being called an “assassination” in Iran.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed “severe revenge” after the move.

Iran has been locked in a long conflict with the United States that escalated sharply last week with an attack on the US embassy in Iraq by pro-Iranian militiamen following a US air raid on the Kataib Hezbollah militia, founded by Muhandis.

“At the direction of the president, the US military has taken decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad by killing Qassem Soleimani,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans,” it added.

Both the Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani and Iraqi President, Barham Salih have condemned the killings.

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