Iran Claims 80 Americans Killed By Missiles

Screenshot of missiles fired at an Iraq military bases used by US Troops. AFP

 

Iranian state television claimed that Wednesday missile strikes on bases in Iraq killed 80 Americans, in a report citing what it called an informed Revolutionary Guards source.

Iran launched 22 missiles overnight at the Iraqi bases used by US and other US-led coalition troops, the Iraqi army said.

“At least 80 American military (personnel) were killed in this attack,” the state television website reported.

In addition, it said, unmanned aerial vehicles, helicopters and other military equipment had been severely damaged in the attack.

READ ALSO: Trump Says ‘All Is Well’ After Iranian Missiles Target US Troops

The Revolutionary Guards source said at least 140 targets of the US and their allies had been identified in the region and would be attacked “if the Americans commit any kind of mistake again”.

The source said 15 missiles hit Ain Al-Assad base and none was intercepted by “radars of America’s terrorist army”.

It was the first action of Iran’s promised revenge for the US killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Iraq last week.

Air France, KLM And Lufthansa Halt Flying Through Iran, Iraq Airspaces

 

 

A growing number of airlines said Wednesday they were avoiding Iranian and Iraqi airspace or flights to the region after Tehran fired ballistic missiles against bases housing US troops in Iraq.

“As a precautionary measure and following news of airstrikes underway, Air France has decided to suspend until further notice all flights through Iranian and Iraqi airspace,” an Air France spokesman told AFP.

Iran launched a series of missiles at the bases housing US troops in the early hours, officials in Washington and Tehran said.

Iran’s supreme leader later called it a “slap in the face” after a US drone strike killed Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani near Baghdad international airport last week.

Shortly after the missile attacks, the US Federal Aviation Administration said it was banning US-registered carriers from flying over Iraq, Iran and the Gulf.

The regions is an important corridor for flights travelling between Europe and Asia, although planes can be rerouted.

A KLM spokesman told AFP: “Until further notice, KLM has no flights over Iranian or Iraqi airspace. All flights to different Southeast Asian destinations and other destinations in the Middle East will be flown through alternative routes.”

In Germany, Lufthansa said it had cancelled its daily flight to Tehran in addition to halting overflights of Iran and Iraq until further notice.

It added that Saturday’s twice-weekly service to northern Iraqi city Erbil would also not depart.

UAE carriers Emirates Airline and low-cost Flydubai said they had cancelled flights to Baghdad for “operational reasons”.

Australia’s Qantas said one of its London-Perth flights would be rerouted, with the other already flying an alternative route.

“We’re adjusting our flight paths over the Middle East to avoid the airspace over Iraq and Iran until further notice,” said a spokesman.

Both Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines said they would divert flights from Iranian airspace.

Vietnam Airlines said it will make “appropriate adjustments” of routes to avoid areas of potential instability although its regular flight paths to Europe do not pass over Iran and Iraq.

Japanese airlines ANA and JAL, and Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific said their planes do not fly through airspace affected by latest flare-up.

White House Says Trump ‘Monitoring’ Reports Of Attack On Base In Iraq

 

The White House said Tuesday President Donald Trump was “monitoring” reports of a rocket attack on an airbase in western Iraq where US and coalition forces are based.

“We are aware of the reports of attacks on US facilities in Iraq. The president has been briefed and is monitoring the situation closely and consulting with his national security team,” White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.

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At least nine rockets slammed into the Ain al-Asad airbase late Tuesday, security sources told AFP, after pro-Tehran factions in Iraq had vowed to “respond” to a US drone strike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad last week.

Iran Fires Over A Dozen Missiles On Iraq Base Housing US Troops

 

Iran on Wednesday launched a missile attack on an Iraqi airbase where US forces are based, threatening “more crushing responses” if Washington carried out further strikes, Iranian state media said.

It said the missiles were in response to a US strike last week that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi top commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Security sources told AFP that nine rockets hit the sprawling Ain al-Asad airbase in the country’s west, the largest of the Iraqi military compounds where foreign troops are based.

The attack came in three waves just after midnight, the sources said.

READ ALSO: 176 Killed As Ukrainian Jet Crash

Iran swiftly claimed responsibility for the attack, with state TV saying it had launched “tens of missiles” on the base and promised “more crushing responses” if the US carried out further strikes.

The Pentagon said Iran had fired more than a dozen missiles against Ain al-Asad and another installation hosting US and coalition forces near Arbil.

It said bases hosting foreign troops had expected an attack and had been on “high alert” for days.

US President Donald Trump was “monitoring the situation closely and consulting with his national security team,” according to the White House.

The attack came after pro-Tehran factions in Iraq had vowed to join forces to “respond” to the killing of Soleimani and Muhandis last week.

Soleimani was seen as the “godfather” of Tehran’s proxy network across the region and Muhandis, one of his top advisors, was the deputy head of Iraq’s Hashed al-Shaabi military network.

Many factions within the Hashed, which has been incorporated into the Iraqi state, have ties to Tehran.

On Tuesday, a hardline Hashed faction issued its fiercest threat yet to retaliate.

“The US Marines must immediately return to their dens to make their coffins,” said Akram al-Kaabi, head of the Harakat al-Nujaba group.

“The International Resistance Regiments have been formed in order to execute a harsh, deliberate response to the American terrorist forces,” Kaabi added.

His deputy had earlier called for an urgent meeting to unite anti-American forces across Iraq.

“We will wage a war against the American presence in all parts of the region that we can reach,” said Nasr al-Shammary.

US installations across Iraq had faced some 15 rocket attacks in recent months but none had been claimed.

As a result, the US-led coalition and NATO announced they were temporarily suspending their operations in Iraq.

US military Says Three Killed In Kenya Jihadist Attack

 

A jihadist attack on a military base in Kenya killed three people Sunday, including a US service member and two civilian defense contractors, the American military said.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of our teammates who lost their lives today,” General Stephen Townsend, the head of US Africa Command (Africom), said after jihadists from Somalia’s Al-Shabaab group stormed a base in the Lamu region.

Two other Department of Defense personnel were wounded in the attack on Camp Simba, Africom added in a statement which gave no details on the identity of those killed.

Somali Jihadists Attack Military Base In Kenya

 

 

Jihadists from Somalia’s Al-Shabaab group on Sunday stormed a military base used by US forces in Kenya’s coastal Lamu region, destroying several aircraft and military vehicles, according to Kenyan police and army officials.

Attackers breached heavy security at Camp Simba at dawn but were repelled and four jihadists were killed, said army spokesman Colonel Paul Njuguna.

Al-Shabaab has launched regular cross-border raids since Kenya sent troops into Somalia in 2011 as part of an African Union force protecting the internationally-backed government — which the jihadists have been trying to overthrow for more than a decade.

The Lamu region, which includes popular tourist beach destination Lamu Island, lies close to the Somali frontier and has suffered frequent attacks, often carried out with roadside bombs.

Njuguna said “an attempt was made to breach security at Manda Air Strip” at 5:30am but it was repulsed.

“Four terrorists’ bodies have so far been found. The airstrip is safe,” he said, adding that a fire had broken out but had since been dealt with.

Kenya’s Inspector General of Police Hilary Mutyambai said officers were “on high alert” after the attack.

Al-Shabaab ‘lying’

An internal police report seen by AFP said two Cessna aircraft, two American helicopters and “multiple American vehicles” were destroyed at the airstrip.

Local government official Irungu Macharia said five people had been arrested near the camp and were being interrogated.

Neither Kenya nor the US have admitted casualties as yet, despite Shabaab claiming to have killed 17 Americans and nine Kenyan soldiers.

US military officials confirmed the attack and said US and Kenyan forces had repelled the Al-Shabaab fighters.

“Working alongside our Kenyan partners, the airfield is cleared and still in the process of being fully secured,” said the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) in a statement.

The nearby civilian airport at Manda Bay, which brings tourists visiting Lamu Island — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — was closed for several hours after the incident, according to the civil aviation authority.

Al-Shabaab said in a statement it had “successfully stormed the heavily fortified military base and have now taken effective control of part of the base”.

AFRICOM accused Al-Shabaab of lying in order to create false headlines.

Shabaab countered with a second statement, saying it had been a ten hour firefight and mocking the US “inability to fend off an attack by just a handful of steadfast Muslim men”.

The group referred to an uptick in US military airstrikes under President Donald Trump, accusing the US of “strafing villages from above and indiscriminately bombarding innocent women and children.”

AFRICOM said in April it had killed more than 800 people in 110 strikes in Somalia since April 2017.

US military network

The Somali jihadists have staged several large-scale attacks inside Kenya in retaliation for Nairobi sending troops into Somalia as well as to target foreign interests.

The group has been fighting to overthrow an internationally-backed government in Mogadishu since 2006, staging regular attacks on government buildings, hotels, security checkpoints and military bases in the country

Despite years of costly efforts to fight Al-Shabaab, the group on December 28 managed to detonate a vehicle packed with explosives in Mogadishu, killing 81 people.

The spate of attacks highlights the group’s resilience and capacity to inflict mass casualties at home and in the region, despite losing control of major urban areas in Somalia.

In a November report, a UN panel of experts on Somalia noted an “unprecedented number” of homemade bombs and other attacks across the Kenya-Somalia border in June and July last year.

On Thursday, at least three people were killed when suspected Al-Shabaab gunmen ambushed a bus travelling in the area.

According to the Institute for Security Studies, the United States has 34 known military bases in Africa, from where it conducts “drone operations, training, military exercises, direct action and humanitarian activities”.

Macron Urges Iran To Avoid ‘Escalation’, Voices ‘Solidarity’ With US

Macron Signs Controversial French 'Anti-Rioters' Bill Into Law

 

French President Emmanual Macron on Sunday assured US counterpart Donald Trump of “his complete solidarity” and urged Iran to avoid “military escalation that could aggravate instability in the region.”

Macron noted “mounting tensions in Iraq and in the region”, and expressed concern that Iranian forces that were commanded by slain general Qasem Soleimani could take actions that would destabilise the region, in a statement issued by the Elysee presidential office.

The French president “reiterated the necessity that Iran put an end” to such activities.

“The priority should be pursuing international coalition action against Daesh, with full respect for Iraq’s sovereignty, for its security and for regional stability,” Macron said, using an Arabic name for the Islamic State group.

At Least Two Rockets Hit Near US Embassy In Baghdad – Witnesses

President Buhari To Swear In Ministers August 21

 

Two rockets hit near the US embassy in Iraq’s capital Sunday, witnesses told AFP, shortly after the deadline from a hardline pro-Iran faction for local troops to get away from US forces.

The vehemently anti-American group, Kataeb Hezbollah, had warned Iraqi security forces to “get away” from US troops at joint bases across Iraq by 5:00 pm (1400 GMT).

Sunday’s attack marks the 14th time rockets have been fired towards US installations in Iraq over the last two months.

Britain Will Not lament Death Of Soleimani, Says Boris Johnson

 

Britain will not lament the death of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Sunday, though he warned that reprisals would lead to greater violence.

The United States killed top military leader Soleimani outside Baghdad airport in a drone strike on Friday.

In his first intervention on the escalation of tensions in the Middle East, Johnson said he had spoken Sunday with US President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

He said he would speak to other leaders in the coming days.

“General Qasem Soleimani posed a threat to all our interests and was responsible for a pattern of disruptive, destabilising behaviour in the region,” Johnson said in a statement.

“Given the leading role he has played in actions that have led to the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians and Western personnel, we will not lament his death.

“It is clear however that all calls for retaliation or reprisals will simply lead to more violence in the region and they are in no one’s interest.”

Johnson said that following ministerial meetings and further international calls, MPs would be updated on the situation on Tuesday.

Meanwhile London has urged Baghdad to allow international coalition soldiers to stay in Iraq, where the parliament on Sunday pressed the government to oust foreign troops.

The cabinet would have to approve any such decision.

British troops are part of an international coalition of forces stationed in Iraq — invited by the government in Baghdad in 2014 — to help fight against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group.

A British government spokesman said: “The coalition is in Iraq to help protect Iraqis and others from the threat from Daesh (IS), at the request of the Iraqi government.

“We urge the Iraqi government to ensure the coalition is able to continue our vital work countering this shared threat.”

Some 5,200 US soldiers are stationed across Iraqi bases to support local troops preventing an IS resurgence.

Seven Children Among 14 Killed In Roadside Bomb In Burkina Faso

 

 

Seven children and four women were among 14 civilians, killed when a roadside bomb blew up their bus in northwestern Burkina Faso, the government said.

“The provisional toll is 14 dead,” a statement said, adding that 19 more people were hurt, three of them seriously in Saturday’s blast.

The explosion happened in Sourou province near the Mali border as students returned to school after the Christmas holidays, a security source said.

“The vehicle hit a homemade bomb on the Toeni-Tougan road,” the source told AFP.

“The government strongly condemns this cowardly and barbaric act,” the statement said.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack but jihadist violence in Burkina Faso has been blamed on combatants linked to both Al-Qaeda and Islamic State groups.

Meanwhile, the army reported an assault against gendarmes at Inata in the north on Friday, saying “a dozen terrorists were neutralised”.

The deaths came the week after 35 people, most of them women, died in an attack on the northern city of Arbinda and seven Burkinabe troops were killed in a raid on their army base nearby.

Burkina Faso, bordering Mali and Niger, has seen frequent jihadist attacks which have left hundreds of people dead since the start of 2015 when Islamist extremist violence began to spread across the Sahel region.

In a televised address on Tuesday President Roch Marc Christian Kabore insisted that “victory” against “terrorism” was assured.

The entire Sahel region is fighting a jihadist insurgency with help from Western countries but has not managed to stem the bloodshed.

Five Sahel states — Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Chad — have joined forces to combat terrorism in the fragile region that lies between the Sahara and the Atlantic.

Increasingly deadly Islamist attacks in Burkina have killed more than 750 people since 2015, according to an AFP count, and forced 560,000 people from their homes, UN figures show.

Trump’s Threat To Target Iran Cultural Sites Sparks Backlash

 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted Sunday that any US military action against Iran would conform to international law after President Donald Trump was accused of threatening a war crime by declaring cultural sites as potential targets.

Tehran’s foreign minister drew parallels with the Islamic State group’s destruction of the Middle East’s cultural heritage following Trump’s tweets that sites which were “important to… Iranian culture” were on a list of 52 potential US targets.

And as Twitter was flooded with photos of revered Iranian landmarks in ancient cities such as Isfahan under the hashtag #IranianCulturalSites, leading US Democrats said the president would be in breach of international protocols if he made good on his threat.

“You are threatening to commit war crimes,” Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the top Democrats hoping to challenge Trump in November’s election, wrote on Twitter.

“We are not at war with Iran. The American people do not want a war with Iran.”

“Targeting civilians and cultural sites is what terrorists do. It’s a war crime,” added fellow Senator Chris Murphy.

In a flurry of interviews on the Sunday talk shows, Trump’s top diplomat said the US would not hesitate to hit back hard against Iran’s “kleptocratic regime” if it came under attack, but pledged that any action would be consistent with the rule of law.

“We’ll behave lawfully. We’ll behave inside the system. We always have and we always will,” Pompeo told the ABC network’s “This Week” program.

“The American people should know that every target that we strike will be a lawful target, and it will be a target designed with a singular mission, of protecting and defending America,” he added.

His comments came after his opposite number in Tehran Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that “targeting cultural sites is a WAR CRIME”.

“A reminder to those hallucinating about emulating ISIS war crimes by targeting our cultural heritage: Through MILLENNIA of history, barbarians have come and ravaged our cities, razed our monuments and burnt our libraries,” said Foreign Minister Zarif.

“Where are they now? We’re still here, & standing tall.”

Threat ‘Un-American’

Nicholas Burns, who served as US ambassador to NATO under president George W. Bush, said the Trump administration would be guilty of hypocrisy given it was part of international efforts to deter IS from destroying countless pre-Islamic artefacts, including in the Syrian UNESCO-listed site of Palmyra.

“Donald Trump’s threat to destroy Iranian cultural sites would be a war crime under UN Security Council resolution 2347 – supported by the Trump Administration itself in 2017 to warn ISIS+Al Qaeda of similar actions.

“His threat is immoral and Un-American,” said Burns who is now a professor at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Others drew comparisons with the Taliban’s 2001 destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in central Afghanistan

Pompeo refused to give any details on the 52 potential targets which Trump said had been drawn up to represent each and every hostage held in the standoff at the US embassy in Tehran four decades ago.

But one former official expressed skepticism that military planners would agree to target cultural sites.

“For what it’s worth, I find it hard to believe the Pentagon would provide Trump targeting options that include Iranian cultural sites,” said Colin Kahl who was National Security Adviser to former vice president Joe Biden.

“Trump may not care about the laws of war, but DoD (Department of Defense) planners and lawyers do… and targeting cultural sites is war crime.”

Iraq Parliament Demands US Troop Ouster After Soleimani Killing

 

 

Pressure against the US in Iraq ramped up Sunday, as rockets hit near the American embassy and parliament demanded the ouster of thousands of US troops over the killing of a top Iranian general.

Ties have deteriorated after an American precision drone strike Friday on the Baghdad international airport that killed Iran’s Major General Qasem Soleimani and top Iraqi military figure Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

A pair of rockets hit near the US embassy in Iraq’s high-security Green Zone for the second night in a row on Sunday just hours after Iraq’s foreign ministry summoned the American ambassador over the strike.

Earlier, caretaker prime minister Adel Abdel Mahdi attended an extraordinary parliamentary session during which he slammed the US strike as a “political assassination”.

READ ALSO: At Least Two Rockets Hit Near US Embassy In Baghdad – Witnesses

He joined 168 lawmakers — just enough for quorum in Iraq’s 329-seat parliament — to discuss the ouster of US troops.

Some 5,200 US soldiers are stationed across Iraqi bases to support local troops preventing a resurgence of the Islamic State jihadist group.

They are deployed as part of the broader international coalition, invited by the Iraqi government in 2014 to help fight IS.

“The parliament has voted to commit the Iraqi government to cancel its request to the international coalition for help to fight IS,” speaker Mohammed Halbusi announced.

The cabinet would have to approve any decision but the premier indicated support for an ouster in his speech.

“We face two main choices,” he told MPs: either immediately voting for foreign troops to leave or setting limits and a timeframe for withdrawal through a parliamentary process.

US-led coalition ‘pauses’ ops

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reacted to the parliament’s move by saying: “We’ll have to take a look at what we do when the Iraqi leadership and government makes a decision”.

Britain, a key member of the US-led coalition against jihadists, urged Iraq to allow soldiers to stay in the country, saying their work was “vital”.

Admiral Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council secretary, said US troop presence in Iraq after the Iraqi parliamentary decision would be considered an “occupation”.

Hardline parliamentarians with ties to Iraq’s Hashed al-Shaabi, a military force close to Iran, had demanded the immediate expulsion of all foreign troops.

No Kurdish and most Sunni MPs boycotted the session as they were more supportive of an American military presence, seen as a counterweight to Iran.

Tom Warrick, a former US official and current fellow at the Atlantic Council, said Soleimani and pro-Iran factions within the Hashed had long sought the US’s ouster.

“If US forces do end up withdrawing, it could grant Soleimani a post-humous victory,” Warrick told AFP.

As the session got under way, the US-led coalition announced it was suspending its Iraq operations due to deadly rocket attacks on their bases.

“This has limited our capacity to conduct training with partners and to support their operations against Daesh (IS) and we have therefore paused these activities, subject to continuous review,” it said.

Late Saturday, two missiles slammed into the Green Zone and another two rockets hit an airbase north of the capital housing American troops.

There had been fears of a volleys of rockets following a warning from a hardline Hashed faction for Iraqis to move away from US forces by Sunday afternoon.

Increased tensions had already prompted NATO to suspend training activities in Iraq and a US defence official told AFP American-led coalition forces would “limit” operations.

‘Blatant violation’

Iraq’s foreign ministry said it summoned US ambassador Matthew Tueller and submitted complaints to the United Nations Security Council over the strikes.

“They were a blatant violation of Iraqi sovereignty,” the ministry said in a statement, and “contradict the agreed-upon missions of the international coalition.”

The US strike on Baghdad international airport early Friday killed five Iranian Revolutionary Guards and five members of Iraq’s Hashed.

After a procession that made its way across various Iraqi cities on Saturday, the remains of the Iranians, plus those of Muhandis and another Hashed member, were flown to Iran where mourners packed the streets to pay tribute to them.

DNA testing was required to separate the Iraqis’ remains so they could be properly buried, the Hashed said.

As head of the Quds Force, the Guards’ foreign operations arm, Soleimani oversaw Iran’s wide-ranging interventions in regional power struggles.

In Iraq, protesters taking to the streets since October had blamed him for propping up a government they see as corrupt and inept.

Demonstrations still rocked the capital and south on Sunday, with many protesting against Iran and the United States.

US President Donald Trump claimed Soleimani was planning an “imminent” attack on US personnel in the region and threatened Iran — which has promised “severe revenge” — with more strikes.