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US-Iran tensions rise amidst war of words

Several blasts shook the Baghdad area hours after a huge funeral procession for a top Iranian general, killed by the US air strike.

A projectile hit the Green Zone near the US embassy while several more were fired north of the Iraqi capital at Balad air base, which houses US forces. The Iraqi military confirmed the missile attacks in Baghdad and on Balad base and said there were no casualties. The US military also said no coalition troops were hurt.

US President Donald Trump has warned that the US is targeting 52 sites in Iran and will hit them “very fast and very hard” if the Islamic republic attacks American personnel or assets.

In a tweet defending Friday’s drone strike assassination of a top Iranian general in Iraq, Trump said 52 represents the number of Americans held hostage at the US embassy in Tehran for more than a year starting in late 1979.

Earlier addressing media, the US President said that under his leadership America’s policy is unambiguous toward terrorists who harm or plan to harm any American and warned to find and eliminate them.

Meanwhile, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif vowed that the end of the American presence in the Middle East had begun. 

In a tweet posted on Saturday that featured photos of big crowds of Iranians mourning the death of Soleimani, Zarif hit out at his American counterpart.

Earlier on Saturday, Iraqi political leaders and clerics attended the mass funeral procession of Soleimani and the others. 

The funeral procession through Baghdad and Iraq’s Shia Muslim holy cities precedes the return of his remains to Iran.

Iraqis were also mourning the death of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an Iraqi who commanded the Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah group and was killed along with Soleimani.

The Iraqis will be buried in Najaf while The Guards’ remains will be flown to Iran, which has declared three days of mourning and religious rituals. 

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei promised “severe revenge” for Soleimani’s death. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited the family of killed commander Qassem Soleimani on Saturday. Tehran named Soleimani’s deputy, Esmail Qaani, to succeed him.

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