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US sending 3,000 troops to region amid Iran tensions

Military helicopters carry coalition troops from Nineveh Joint Operations Command headquarters to various parts of Mosul, on October 19, 2016.
US military forces in Iraq on 19 October 2016 [File photo]

The US is deploying roughly 3,000 additional troops to the Middle East after it killed a top Iranian general, according to multiple reports published Friday, Anadolu Agency reports.

The new deployment will include soldiers from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, the reports said citing anonymous defense and military officials.

They will be sent to both Iraq and Kuwait, according to NBC News.

Qassem Soleimani, the head of the elite Quds Force who was the chief architect of Iran’s Middle East operations, was killed early Friday morning in a US airstrike outside of Baghdad’s airport. Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a senior commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) was also killed in the airstrike.

READ: Pentagon says Iranian commander Soleimani was developing plans to attack Americans

Soleimani’s slaying marks a dramatic escalation in tensions between the US and Iran, which have often been at a fever pitch since President Donald Trump chose in 2018 to unilaterally withdraw the US from the nuclear pact world powers struck with Tehran.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who gave Soleimani the country’s highest honor last year, vowed “severe retaliation” in response to his killing as Trump struck a hawkish tone of defiance.

Following the death of an American contractor in rocket attacks on a US base in Iraq, Washington carried out a series of strikes on Sunday that led to the deaths of at least 25 fighters from the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia group.

The strikes were the first major attack by the US on an Iran-linked group since the withdrawal of troops from Iraq in 2011.

The US embassy in Baghdad was then attacked by a large crowd of angry protesters on Tuesday, leading to a two-day standoff between US forces and protesters.

READ: US calls on citizens not to travel to Iraq

The Pentagon accused Soleimani of plotting the embassy attack and planning to carry out additional attacks on US diplomats and service members in Iraq and the region.

Trump said Soleimani was behind the deaths and woundings of thousands of Americans, and claimed “he was directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people, including the recent large number of PROTESTERS killed in Iran itself.”

Although Iran is “not able to properly” admit it, Soleimani was both “hated and feared” within the country, the US president said in a series of tweets.

“He should have been taken out many years ago!” Trump added.

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