United States President Donald Trump on Friday claimed that Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US airstrike at the Baghdad airport early in the day, had been directly or indirectly responsible for the deaths of millions of people. The Pentagon had said early on Friday that Trump himself ordered Soleimani’s killing.
“General Qassem Soleimani has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more...but got caught!” Trump tweeted. “He was directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people, including the recent large number of PROTESTERS killed in Iran itself.”
Trump added that while Iran will never admit it, Soleimani was both feared and hated in his own country. The US president said Iranians are “no so saddened” by Soleimani’s death as Iran would have the outside world believe. Trump said Soleimani should have been killed many years ago.
However, photos showed many Iranians taking to the streets, especially in Tehran, to protest against the killing of Soleimani.
Anti-government protests had erupted in Iran in November, which Trump was probably referring to in his tweet. The protests began as an outcry against increasing fuel prices in the country, but enlarged to demonstrations against the government and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. At least 1,500 people were killed in the demonstrations.
Earlier on Friday, Khamenei appointed Esmail Qaani, the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ elite foreign operations unit, to replace Soleimani. Iran’s supreme leader also vowed revenge against the United States for Soleimani’s killing.
Friday’s airstrike also killed top Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was the deputy commander of Iran-backed Iraqi militias known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces, or PMF. He was reportedly an advisor to Soleimani.
India, meanwhile, urged restraint while expressing concern over the killing. “We have noted that a senior Iranian leader has been killed by the US,” India’s Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement. “The increase in tension [between the US and Iran] has alarmed the world. Peace, stability and security in this [West Asia] region is of utmost importance to India. It is vital that the situation does not escalate further.”