BAGHDAD (AP) - The United States has killed Iran's top general in an airstrike at Baghdad's international airport, an attack that threatens to dramatically ratchet up tensions in the region.

The targeted killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds Force, could draw forceful Iranian retaliation against American interests in the region and spiral into a far larger conflict. The Defense Department says it killed Soleimani because he "was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region."

An adviser to Iran's President Hassan Rouhani is warning U.S. President Donald Trump of retaliation.

For Iranians, Qassem Soleimani widely represented the most prominent figure outside its Shiite theocracy of national resilience in the face of four decades of U.S. pressure. For the U.S. and Israel, he was a shadowy figure in command of Iran's proxy forces, responsible for fighters in Syria backing President Bashar Assad and for the deaths of American troops in Iraq. Relatively unknown in Iran until the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Soleimani's popularity and mystique grew out American officials calling for his killing. A U.S. airstrike in Baghdad early Friday killed Soleimani. He was 62 years old.

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