Iran’s supreme leader has vowed “severe revenge” on those responsible for the death of top military commander Qasem Soleimani.
Soleimani was killed by an air strike at Baghdad airport early on Friday ordered by US President Donald Trump.
The 62-year-old Soleimani spearheaded Iran’s Middle East operations as head of the elite Quds Force.
Mr Trump said the US took its action to stop, not start, a war. But the killing marks a major escalation in tensions.
US officials have said 3,000 additional troops will be sent to the Middle East as a precaution.
Soleimani was widely seen as the second most powerful figure in Iran, behind Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Quds Force, an elite unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), reported directly to the ayatollah and Soleimani was hailed as a heroic national figure.
Under his 21-year leadership of the Quds Force, Iran bolstered Hezbollah and other pro-Iranian militant groups in Lebanon; expanded its military presence in Iraq and Syria; and orchestrated Syria’s offensive against rebel groups in that country’s long civil war.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US wanted to de-escalate the situation, but that the strike was “lawful” and “saved lives”.
Later Mr Pompeo thanked Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for Saudi Arabia’s “steadfast support” and “for recognising aggressive threats posed by Iran’s Quds force”, the state department said.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Iranians have been holding rallies in Tehran and other cities, denouncing what they call US crimes. BBC