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After killing of Qasem Soleimani, rocket fire and threats unsettle Iraq and the Middle East – The Washington Post

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After killing of Qasem Soleimani, rocket fire and threats unsettle Iraq and the Middle East – The Washington Post_5e11189a28a0e.jpeg

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Pence’s Press Secretary Backs Disputed Claim Soleimani Was Involved in 9/11 – Newsweek

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Pence’s Press Secretary Backs Disputed Claim Soleimani Was Involved in 9/11 – Newsweek_5e1118b5779d2.jpeg

Mike Pence’s press secretary has defended his claim which linked Iran to the 9/11 terror attacks to justify the killing of Iran General Qassem Soleimani after the Vice President was heavily criticized for his remark.

Many Twitter commentators accused Pence of spreading conspiracy theories after suggesting Soleimani played a role in the 2001 attacks as part of a number of tweets explaining why President Donald Trump decided to kill the general in an airstrike in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

Pence described the leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force as an “evil man” who was responsible for “killing thousands of Americans.” Pence then went on to list a series of “atrocities” Soleimani was responsible for, including suggesting he played a part in the 9/11 terror attacks which killed nearly 3,000 people.

“Assisted in the clandestine travel to Afghanistan of 10 of the 12 terrorists who carried out the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States,” Pence wrote.

Pence appeared to incorrectly state the number of 9/11 hijackers as 12—the actual number was 19, none of whom were Iranian—as well as suggesting Soleimani was involved.

According to the U.S. government’s 9/11 Commission Report, there was evidence that Iranian officials were instructed to assist Al-Qaeda members traveling between Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia through Iran by not stamping their passports. An Iranian border stamp would have otherwise opened up the passport holder to severe scrutiny.

“We now have evidence suggesting that 8 to 10 of the 14 Saudi ‘muscle’ operatives traveled into or out of Iran between October 2000 and February 2001,” the reports states.

However, the 9/11 Commission Report later adds: “We have found no evidence that Iran or Hezbollah was aware of the planning for what later became the 9/11 attack. At the time of their travel through Iran, the al Qaeda operatives themselves were probably not aware of the specific details of their future operations.”

Soleimani’s name is not mentioned once in the 567-page report.

Defending Pence’s remarks, his press secretary Katie Waldman clarified the inaccurate number of hijackers he gave.

“For those asking: 12 of the 19 transited through Afghanistan. 10 of those 12 were assisted by Soleimani,” Waldman tweeted.

Waldman did not clarify how Soleimani was linked to the 9/11 hijackers, nor why Pence linked Soleimani to the 9/11 attacks despite the U.S government’s own official report not suggesting he played a role.

The White House has been contacted for further comment.

Elsewhere, Pence repeated Trump’s comments that the decision to kill Soleimani was because he was “plotting imminent attacks on American diplomats and military personnel,” without elaborating. “The world is a safer place today because Soleimani is gone,” Pence said.

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Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a Keep America Great rally at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania, on December 10, 2019.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty

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Iran in mourning, vows revenge for Qassem Soleimani’s killing – Al Jazeera English

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Iran in mourning, vows revenge for Qassem Soleimani’s killing – Al Jazeera English_5e1118af3c252.jpeg

Tehran, Iran – The assassination of top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in air raids by the United States has triggered a wave of emotions and garnered a response of solidarity and retribution across the otherwise divided Iranian political spectrum.

Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force and mastermind of its regional influence, was killed early on Friday near Baghdad’s international airport in an air strike ordered by US President Donald Trump.

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Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei paid tribute to him as a “martyr” and promised to exact “harsh revenge”.

He announced three days of national mourning in honour of Soleimani, who was widely believed to be the second-most powerful figure in Iran.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani echoed the threat of revenge and vowed that there would be consequences. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif condemned the killing as an “act of state terrorism” in a statement.

“The pure blood of Qassem Soleimani will surely strengthen the tree of resistance, unite the Iranian people, and make US policies in the region less effective by the day,” he said.

Iran’s National Security Council has convened an emergency meeting to decide Iran’s reaction to the killing. Reports say Khamenei has participated in the meeting for the first time ever, denoting the gravity of the situation.

Iran’s supreme leader appointed Esmail Qaani as the new head of the IRGC’s foreign operations on Friday.

“Following the martyrdom of the glorious General Haj Qasem Soleimani, I name Brigadier General Esmail Qaani as the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a statement posted on his official website.

Several local news sources have reported that a number of Iranian fighter jets are patrolling the western parts of the country, which border Iraq.

The US air strike was a dramatic escalation of tensions with Iran, which have been continuously growing since Trump unilaterally withdrew from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers in May last year and imposed crippling sanctions.

‘Hero’ remembered

IRGC officials, clerics, ministers, members of parliament, and the business community reacted in unison and hailed the commander as a fallen hero.

Gatherings are being organised in Tehran and across the country after Friday prayers to commemorate Soleimani and denounce the US and Israel.

State broadcaster IRIB and radio channels were allotting almost their entire broadcast time to news of Soleimani’s assassination and programmes commemorating him. All television presenters wore black and a black strip adorned the top corner of the screens.

An IRIB presenter, who was interviewing IRGC spokesman Ramezan Sharif, kissed his uniform and embraced him as they broke down in tears.

All comedy films slated to be showed in cinemas were postponed and all music concerts were temporarily suspended.

A major passageway in Tehran, which has yet to be announced, will be named after Soleimani, officials said.

“The assassination of Qassem Soleimani has definitely enraged a majority of Iranians, irrespective of political beliefs,” said Ali Akbar Dareini, an expert on Iran-US affairs at the Center for Strategic Studies in Tehran.

Soleimani was the most popular political figure in Iran, according to several local and external polls. The latest, a poll commissioned by the Center of International and Security Studies at Maryland University, found that Soleimani had increased his influence, with eight in 10 respondents saying they view him favourably.

‘Declaration of war’

“The unilateral US sanctions were a declaration of economic war and this reckless move is obviously a major escalation and a declaration of war against Iran,” Dareini told Al Jazeera.

The White House and Pentagon said the attack on Soleimani was carried out with the aim of deterring future attacks allegedly being planned by Iran.

The Pentagon said Trump had ordered Soleimani’s “killing” after pro-Iran protesters this week stormed the US Embassy in Baghdad.

But Dareini believes the attack will lead to more insecurity and violence across the Middle East “exactly contrary to what the Americans claim”.

“This is also a gift to Daesh and all terrorists in the region,” the political analyst said.

Soleimani, along with Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a key figure in Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) who was also killed in the air strikes, were instrumental to the two countries’ fight against ISIL (ISIS).

“After him [Soleimani], the political, security and military red lines of the region will be transformed,” tweeted Hesammodin Ashna, a top adviser to President Rouhani. “The deserts, mountains and valleys know him better than the streets, palaces and towers”.

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Illinois bank robbery suspect accused of taking hostage is identified – CNN

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The suspect, Nicholas James August, 38, faces charges of armed robbery, two counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault and aggravated unlawful restraint, according to a Rockford Police Department statement.

Nicholas James August was arrested Friday after a standoff with police.
August allegedly sexually assaulted the 39-year-old woman during the hours-long standoff, police said in a statement.

Police said August, armed with a pellet gun that resembled a real firearm, entered a branch of Heritage Credit Union in Rockford and threatened employees just after 2:30 p.m. (3:30 p.m. ET) on Friday.

He allegedly took one hostage before ordering everyone else out of the building, the statement said.

Hostage negotiators convinced August to surrender shortly before 9 p.m., police said. The hostage, a bank employee, was taken to a hospital for treatment of injuries that were not life-threatening, police said.

Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea told reporters Friday that police believed August did not know the bank employee before the incident.

August has outstanding arrest warrants for aggravated domestic battery and a probation violation in neighboring Boone County, police said.

He is being held in the Winnebago County Jail on a $2 million bond.

It’s unclear if August, who has a court date Monday, has an attorney.

Rockford is about 80 miles northwest of Chicago.

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