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Iranian FM expresses his regret over killing of general Soleimani

Baghdad, Iraq: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has expressed his regret on Sunday, July 19 over the killing of top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and senior Iraqi paramilitary figure Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a U.S. drone strike in January.

In a joint news conference held by Iraq's foreign minister Fuad Hussein with his Iranian counterpart Zarif in Baghdad, Zarif described the killing of both men as a terrorist operation. "We regret the loss of martyrs, Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a U.S. terrorist operation. They are a big loss, they were combating Daesh in the region," said Zarif. The United States killed Soleimani and al-Muhandis in a drone strike at Baghdad airport in January. 

Washington accused Soleimani of masterminding attacks by Iranian-aligned militias on U.S. forces in the region. The January U.S. drone strike in Iraq that killed Soleimani, al-Muhandis and eight other people represented a violation of international law, a U.N. human rights investigator said on July 6.

The United States has failed to provide sufficient evidence of an ongoing or imminent attack against its interests to justify the strike on Soleimani's convoy as it left Baghdad airport, said Agnes Callamard, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

Soleimani, leader of the Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force, was a pivotal figure in orchestrating Iran's campaign to drive U.S. forces out of Iraq, and built up Iran's network of proxy armies across the Middle East. Washington had accused Soleimani of masterminding attacks by Iranian-aligned militias on U.S. forces in the region.

Iran retaliated with a rocket attack on an Iraqi air base where U.S. forces were stationed. Hours later, Iranian forces on high alert mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian passenger airliner taking off from Tehran.

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