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State department urges US citizens to leave Iraq 'immediately' after airstrike

State department urges US citizens to leave Iraq 'immediately' after airstrike
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The State Department on Friday urged U.S. citizens to leave Iraq immediately after the Pentagon confirmed late Thursday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts MORE ordered an airstrike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force.

"Due to heightened tensions in Iraq and the region, we urge U.S. citizens to depart Iraq immediately," the State Department tweeted.

They also warned that American citizens “should not approach” the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad after protesters on Tuesday stormed the facility following U.S. launched airstrikes on an Iranian-backed militia over the weekend that killed 25 people.

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"Due to Iranian-backed militia attacks at the U.S. Embassy compound, all consular operations are suspended. U.S. citizens should not approach the Embassy,” the State Department continued. Trump retweeted the message early Friday morning. 

Trump also retweeted a message from the U.S. Embassy in Iraq calling on American citizens to depart the country via airline "while possible" or through other countries.

In addition to killing the general, the Thursday strike at Baghdad International Airport also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of the Iranian-backed militia Popular Mobilization Forces. 

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The Pentagon confirmed in a statement Thursday that "this strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans,” adding, "The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world."

But Iranian officials vowed “harsh” retaliation for the airstrike Friday, with the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, vowing vengeance. 

He said the "cruelest people on earth" assassinated the "honorable" commander who "courageously fought for years against the evils and bandits of the world,” calling for three days of mourning, Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency reported.

“The demise of our selfless and dear general is bitter, but the continued fight and achievement of the final victory will make life bitterer for the murderers and criminals,” he said.