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US embassy urges Americans to leave Iraq 'immediately'

The United States is urging US citizens to leave Iraq 'immediately'. [Getty]

Date of publication: 3 January, 2020

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The United States is urging US citizens to leave Iraq 'immediately' following strikes that killed top Iranian and Iraqi commanders.
The US embassy in Baghdad urged American citizens in Iraq on Friday to "depart immediately", for fear of fallout from a US strike that killed top Iranian and Iraqi commanders.

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

At least three Katyusha rockets were fired at Baghdad International Airport Friday, killing four people and setting cars on fire, Iraqi security officials said.

The US strike hit outside Baghdad airport early Friday but security sources told news agency AFP it was still open to flights.

US President Donald Trump ordered the killing of Iran Revolutionary Guards commander Qassem Soleimani, who died in the Baghdad strike "in a decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad," the Pentagon said Thursday.

"General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region. General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more," the Department of Defense said.

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The attack came amid tensions with the United States after a New Year's Eve attack by Iran-backed militias on the US Embassy in Baghdad. The two-day embassy attack which ended Wednesday prompted President Donald Trump to order about 750 US soldiers deployed to the Middle East.

The breach at the embassy followed US airstrikes on Sunday that killed 25 fighters of the Iran-backed militia in Iraq, the Kataeb Hezbollah. The US military said the strikes were in retaliation for last week's killing of an American contractor in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base that the US blamed on the militia.

US officials suggested they were prepared to engage in further retaliatory attacks in Iraq.

"The game has changed," Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Thursday, telling reporters that violent acts by Iran-backed Shia militias in Iraq — including the rocket attack on 27 December that killed one American — will be met with US military force.

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