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Pompeo: Soleimani killed due to 'imminent threats to American lives'

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBiden's State Department picks are a diplomatic slam dunk Kissinger tells Biden to go easy on China Saudi-Israeli diplomacy progresses amid looming Middle East challenges MORE on Friday said that President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinnesota certifies Biden victory Trump tells allies he plans to pardon Michael Flynn: report Republican John James concedes in Michigan Senate race MORE directed an airstrike that killed one of Iran's top generals, Qassem Soleimani, due to "imminent threats to American lives."

"I spoke today with Chinese Politburo Member Yang Jiechi to discuss @realDonaldTrump's decision to eliminate Soleimani in response to imminent threats to American lives. I reiterated our commitment to de-escalation," Pompeo tweeted, referring to the body that oversees China's Communist Party. 

"Discussed with @DominicRaab the recent decision to take defensive action to eliminate Qassem Soleimani. Thankful that our allies recognize the continuing aggressive threats posed by the Iranian Quds Force. The U.S. remains committed to de-escalation," he added in a subsequent tweet saying he had spoken to the British foreign secretary. 

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Asked about the "threats" in a CNN interview on Friday morning, Pompeo said he couldn't say too much on their nature, but said that the strike saved American lives.

"[Soleimani] was actively plotting in the region to take actions ... that would have put dozens if not hundreds of American lives at risk," Pompeo said.

Pompeo said the move followed an "intelligence-based assessment."

He also said that the threats to the U.S. were located in the Middle East region rather than the U.S. homeland.

Iran, meanwhile, warned that “harsh retaliation is waiting” for the U.S. following the strike that killed the leader of the Quds Force.

Pompeo's statements followed a Thursday announcement by the Pentagon that Soleimani had been killed.

"This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans," the Pentagon said. "The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world."

Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed Iraqi militia the Popular Mobilization Forces, were killed at Baghdad International Airport, Iraqi state TV first reported Thursday. 

Updated at 7:51 a.m.