BAGHDAD: The world reacted with alarm on Friday (Jan 3) after top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani was killed in a US air strike in Iraq, with leaders appealing for restraint.
The attack was praised by US President Donald Trump's Republicans but elsewhere there were sharp warnings it could inflame regional tensions.
The Pentagon said Trump had ordered the "killing", after a pro-Iran mob this week laid siege to the US embassy. Early Friday, a volley of missiles hit the airport, striking a convoy belonging to Hashed al-Shaabi, an Iraqi paramilitary force with close ties to Iran.
READ: Top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani killed in US strike on Baghdad airport
A few hours later, the Revolutionary Guard Corps announced Soleimani had been "martyred in an attack by America on Baghdad airport". Soleimani had headed the Guard Corps' Quds Force and also served as Iran's pointman on Iraq, visiting the country in times of turmoil.
"Martyrdom was the reward for his ceaseless efforts in all these years," Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Twitter.
"With him gone, God willing, his work and his path will not be stopped, but severe revenge awaits the criminals who bloodied their foul hands with his blood and other martyrs' in last night's incident."
Khamenei said he was killed by "the most cruel of those on earth".
"The lack of our devoted and dear general is bitter, but continuing the fight and achieving final victory will embitter the murderers and criminals even more."
"Soleimani's martyrdom will make Iran more decisive to resist America's expansionism and to defend our Islamic values," said Iranian president Hassan Rouhani.
"With no doubt, Iran and other freedom-seeking countries in the region will take his revenge."
"The brutality and stupidity of American terrorist forces in assassinating Commander Soleimani ... will undoubtedly make the tree of resistance in the region and the world more prosperous," said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a statement.
On Twitter he said the assassination of Soleimani was "an extremely dangerous and foolish escalation."
"The US bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism," he said in the post.
"PRICE OF KILLING AMERICANS"
"In a display of resolve and strength, we struck the leader of those attacking our sovereign US territories," top House of Representatives Republican Kevin McCarthy said in a statement.
"Wow - the price of killing and injuring Americans has just gone up drastically," Senator Lindsey Graham, a close confidant of Trump, wrote on Twitter.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo posted a video on Twitter that he said showed Iraqis "dancing in the street" over Soleimani's killing.
"Iraqis - Iraqis - dancing in the street for freedom; thankful that General Soleimani is no more," Pompeo wrote, alongside footage of scores of people running along a road waving what appeared to be Iraqi flags and other banners.
"Qassem Soleimani was an arch terrorist with American blood on his hands," said Nikki Haley, former US ambassador to the United Nations, on Twitter. "His demise should be applauded by all who seek peace and justice. Proud of President Trump for doing the strong and right thing."
'RIGHT TO SELF-DEFENCE'
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Trump "for acting swiftly, forcefully and decisively" to eliminate the general.
"Just as Israel has the right of self-defence, the United States has exactly the same right."
"The killing of Soleimani ... was an adventurist step that will increase tensions throughout the region," the Russian foreign ministry was quoted as saying by news agencies RIA Novosti and TASS.
"Soleimani served the cause of protecting Iran's national interests with devotion."
"This action can seriously aggravate the situation in the region," Russian President Vladimir Putin said, according to a Kremlin readout of a phone conversation with French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.
Konstantin Kosachev, head of the foreign affairs committee of parliament's upper house, said Soleimani's killing was a mistake that would hit back at Washington.
"Retaliatory strikes will certainly follow," he said on Facebook.
"COWARDLY US AGGRESSION"
The Syrian government accused Washington of trying to fuel conflict in the Middle East.
Syria is "certain that this cowardly US aggression ... will only strengthen determination to follow in the path of the resistance's martyred leaders," a foreign ministry official was quoted as saying by the state news agency SANA.
'THREATEN PEACE AND STABILITY'
"Pakistan has viewed with deep concern the recent developments in the Middle East, which seriously threaten peace and stability in the region," the foreign ministry said.
"Respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity are the fundamental principles of the UN Charter, which should be adhered to. It is also important to avoid unilateral actions and use of force."
The foreign ministry in neighbouring India said: "We have noted that a senior Iranian leader has been killed by the US. The increase in tension has alarmed the world."
'AGAINST FOREIGN INTERVENTION'
"It is manifest that the operation carried out by the US will increase insecurity and instability in the region ... Turkey has always been against any foreign intervention in the region, assassinations and sectarian conflicts," the foreign ministry said.
GLOBAL APPEAL FOR RESTRAINT
There were several calls for de-escalation from within the US.
US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement that the killing of Soleimani risks provoking a "dangerous escalation of violence".
"American - and the world - cannot afford to have tensions escalate to the point of no return."
Former US Vice-president Joe Biden said in his statement that President Trump had "just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox".
"Iran will surely respond. We could be on the brink of a major conflict across the Middle East."
"Soleimani was a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans. But this reckless move escalates the situation with Iran and increases the likelihood of more deaths and new Middle East conflict. Our priority must be to avoid another costly war," said US Senator Elizabeth Warren, whose view mirrored fellow Senator Chris Murphy.
"One reason we don’t generally (assassinate) foreign political officials is the belief that such action will get more, not less, Americans killed," Murphy said on Twitter.
"That should be our real, pressing and grave worry tonight."
Other nations also called for restraint.
"China has always opposed the use of force in international relations," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a daily press briefing.
"We urge the relevant sides, especially the United States, to remain calm and exercise restraint to avoid further escalating tensions."
He added that Iraq's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity must be respected.
Britain's Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said London had "always recognised the aggressive threat" posed by Soleimani and his Quds Force, adding: "Following his death, we urge all parties to de-escalate. Further conflict is none of our interests."
"We have woken up to a more dangerous world," Amelie de Montchalin, France's Europe Minister, told French radio, saying President Emmanuel Macron would consult soon with players in the region.
"In such operations, when can see an escalation is under way, but what we want above all is stability and de-escalation," Montchalin said.
"All of France's efforts... in all parts of the world aim to ensure that we are creating the conditions for peace or at least stability," she added.
"Our role is not to take sides, but to talk with everyone," Montchalin said.
Iraqi shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who positions himself as a nationalist rejecting both US and Iranian interference in Iraq, called on all sides to behave with "wisdom and shrewdness".
"As the patron of the patriotic Iraqi resistance I give the order for all mujahideen, especially the Mehdi Army, Promised Day Brigade, and all patriotic and disciplined groups to be ready to protect Iraq," he said in a statement.