Tensions between the United States and Iran escalated on Friday after a US air strike killed Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF.
The Pentagon confirmed the strike, saying it came “at the direction of the president”.
Soleimani and al-Muhandis’s deaths are a potential turning point in the Middle East and are expected to draw severe retaliation from Iran and the forces it backs in the region against Israel and US interests.
Here are all the latest updates amid the heightened tensions as of Friday, January 3:
‘US remains committed to de-escalation’: Pompeo
Washington is committed to “de-escalation” after a US air strike in Baghdad killed Qassem Soleimani, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.
Pompeo said on Twitter that he spoke to British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab and China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi about the US decision to eliminate Soleimani.
Soleimani’s body to be transferred to Iran
Flags at Iranian embassies abroad were ordered to fly at half-mast and preparations were being made for Soleimani’s body to be transferred to Iran. The date for the funeral has yet to be announced.
Responding to the US’ killing of Soleimani, Iran’s National Security Council spokesman Keyvan Khosravi said “the legal, political, security, and military consequences of this crime is on the US government”.
“The costs that Washington has to pay will be much more severe than the mirage-like achievements of this sort of blind moves,” he added.
Tens of thousands rally against ‘US crimes’
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Iran to protest against US “crimes”, after US strikes killed Soleimani.
Chanting “Death to America” and holding up posters of the slain commander, the demonstrators filled streets for several blocks in central Tehran after Friday prayers.
State news agency IRNA reported similar demonstrations in the cities of Arak, Bojnourd, Hamedan, Hormozgan, Sanandaj, Semnan, Shiraz and Yazd.