80 “American Terrorists” Killed In Missile Strikes: Iran State Media

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An explosion is seen following missiles landing at what is believed to be Ain al-Asad Air Base in Iraq. — Reuters

DUBAI (Reuters) — Iranian state television said on Wednesday that at least 80 “American terrorists” were killed in attacks involving 15 missiles Tehran launched on US targets in Iraq, adding that none of the missiles were intercepted.

State TV, citing a senior Revolutionary Guards source, also said Iran had 100 other targets in the region in its sights if Washington took any retaliatory measures. It also said US helicopters and military equipment were “severely damaged”. It did not provide evidence of how it obtained that information.

Iran launched missile attacks on US-led forces in Iraq in the early hours of Wednesday in retaliation for the US drone strike on an Iranian commander whose killing has raised fears of a wider war in the Middle East.

Iranian state television said Iran had fired 15 missiles at US targets in Iraq early on Wednesday. The US military said at least two Iraqi facilities hosting US.-led coalition personnel were targeted at about 1:30 a.m. Iraq time (2230 GMT on Tuesday). Iraq said 22 missiles were fired.

Iranian officials said Tehran did not want a war and its strikes “concluded” its response to Friday’s killing of Qassem Soleimani, a powerful general whose burial in Iran after days of mourning was completed around the same time as Iran’s missile launches. Iranian state television showed mourners celebrating the attack.

US President Donald Trump said in a tweet that an assessment of casualties and damage from the strikes was under way and that he would make a statement on Wednesday morning.

“All is well!” Trump, who visited one of the targeted sites in Iraq, Ain al-Asad air base, in December 2018, said on Twitter.

One source said early indications were of no US casualties, while other US officials declined to comment.

Germany, Denmark and Norway said none of their troops in Iraq were killed or injured. Iraq also said there were no casualties in its forces.

Iran, which has long said US forces should leave the Middle East, told Washington after the attacks to withdraw its troops to prevent more deaths and warned US allies including Israel not to allow attacks from their territories.

Iranian television reported an official in Supreme Leader Ali Khameni’s office as saying the missile attacks were the “weakest” of several retaliation scenarios. It quoted another source saying Iran had lined up 100 other potential targets.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was due to speak later on Wednesday, state television reported.

Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said the bases targeted were al-Asad air base and another facility in Erbil, Iraq.

“As we evaluate the situation and our response, we will take all necessary measures to protect and defend US personnel, partners, and allies in the region,” Hoffman said.

Hours earlier on Tuesday, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the United States should anticipate a response from Iran for the killing of Soleimani, commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force, a unit of the Revolutionary Guards.

“I think we should expect that they will retaliate in some way, shape or form,” he told a briefing at the Pentagon.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran “took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter”.

“We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression,” he wrote in a post on Twitter.

If the US military was spared casualties and Iran takes no further measures to retaliate for Soleimani’s killing, there might be an opportunity for Washington and Tehran to seek a way out to their increasingly violent confrontation.

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