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Top Iran Commander, Qasem Soleimani Killed by US In Baghdad Raid

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Top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani was killed Friday in a US strike on Baghdad’s international airport, prompting Tehran to vow “revenge”, dramatically upping the stakes in bitter tensions between Tehran and Washington.

The Pentagon said US President Donald Trump ordered Soleimani’s “killing”, after a pro-Iran mob this week laid siege to the US embassy.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei swiftly vowed to take “severe revenge” for Soleimani’s death, the biggest escalation yet in a feared proxy war between Iran and the US on Iraqi soil.

As the US embassy urged all American citizens to leave Iraq “immediately”, Trump tweeted out a picture of the US flag without any explanation.

Early Friday, a volley of missiles hit Baghdad’s international airport, striking a convoy belonging to the Hashed al-Shaabi, an Iraqi paramilitary force with close ties to Iran.

Just a few hours later, the Revolutionary Guard Corps announced Soleimani “was martyred in an attack by America on Baghdad airport this morning.”

The Hashed confirmed both Soleimani and its deputy chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were killed in what it said was a “US strike that targeted their car on the Baghdad International Airport road.”

The Hashed is a network of mostly-Shiite armed units, many of whom have close ties to Tehran but which have been officially incorporated into Iraq’s state security forces.

 ‘Major decapitation strike’ 

Muhandis was the Hashed’s deputy chief, but was widely recognised as the real shot-caller within the group.

Soleimani headed the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force and also served as Iran’s pointman on Iraq, visiting the country in times of turmoil.

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Both were sanctioned by the United States.

The Pentagon said Soleimani had been “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”

It said it took “decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani,” but did not specify how.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif slammed the US strike as “extremely dangerous and a foolish escalation,” as Khamenei declared three days of mourning.

The Iraqi prime minister said the strike was a “flagrant violation” of a security accord with the US, warning it will “spark a devastating war in Iraq.”

And a paramilitary group urged its fighters to be on high alert.

“All resistance fighters must be ready, as an upcoming conquest and a great victory await us,” said Qais al-Khazali, the head of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, in a handwritten note seen by AFP.

Militiaman-turned-cleric Moqtada Sadr also reactivated his Mahdi Army, nearly a decade after dissolving the notoriously anti-American force.

But there were daring celebrations in Tahrir Square, the epicentre of a three-month protest movement that has slammed the Iraqi government as corrupt and beholden to Tehran.

“Oh Qasem Soleimani, this is a divine victory,” demonstrators chanted as some danced in the streets.

Trump ‘changed the rules’ –

Analysts said the strike would be a gamechanger in the tensions between Iran and the US.

“Trump changed the rules -— he wanted (Soleimani) eliminated,” said Ramzy Mardini, a researcher at the US Institute of Peace.

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Soleimani “didn’t appreciate that his actions of threatening another hostage crisis at the (US) embassy changed the way things were going to be done,” Mardini said.

Phillip Smyth, a US-based specialist in Shiite armed groups, described the strike as “the most major decapitation strike that the US has ever pulled off.”

He told AFP it would have “bigger” ramifications than the 2011 US operation that killed Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and the 2019 American raid that killed Islamic State group Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

“There is no comparison,” Smyth added.

But others said it remains unclear how Iran could respond to the blow.

“A lot of the focus is on what is the price that the US is gonna pay and how Iran will retaliate against the US,” said Fanar Haddad of the Singapore University’s Middle East Institute.

The developments come after an unprecedented attack on the US mission in Baghdad.

A mob of Hashed supporters surrounded the US embassy on Tuesday angered by American air strikes that killed 25 fighters from the network’s hardline Kataeb Hezbollah faction, which is backed by Iran.

The US had acted in response to a rocket attack days earlier that had killed an American contractor working in Iraq.

Trump had blamed Iran for a spate of rocket attacks targeting US forces as well as the siege at the embassy, saying: “They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat.”

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US lawmakers however were not told in advance of Friday’s attack, House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Eliot Engel said in a statement.

Ties between the US and Iran have deteriorated since Washington pulled out of the landmark nuclear deal with Tehran in 2018.

It then reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran, aiming to choke off its oil exports.

Oil prices soared following Friday’s attack, with Brent surging 4.4 percent to $69.16 and WTI jumping 4.3 percent to 63.84.

The attack threatens to destabilise Iraq, which has close political and military ties with both Tehran and Washington.

The United States led the 2003 invasion against then-dictator Saddam Hussein and has worked closely with Iraqi officials since.

But its influence has waned compared with that of Tehran, which has carefully crafted personal ties with Iraqi politicians and armed factions, even during Saddam’s reign.

AFP

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Oyo: Makinde Mother’s Burial Holds December

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Body of Chief   (Mrs.) Abigail Makinde, the mother of Oyo state governor, Engr. Seyi Makinde will be interred  in the first week of December.

Governor Makinde disclosed this yesterday while playing host to a delegation from the Deji of Akure, Oba Aladetoyinbo Aladelusi Ogunlade Odundun II, which was in Ibadan, the state capital to commiserate with him on the death of his mother.

The governor said he was very delighted with the visit, urging Akure people, the kingdom where his mother was born, to actively participate in her funeral.

Makinde, who  described them as one of the most upright, bold  and honest  people in Yoruba land and the nation at large, also added that his late mother was a role model whose dedication to work, uprightness, boldness and honesty were the traits of Akure people.

A statement by Mr. Taiwo Adisa, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Makinde,  quoted the governor as saying “when you see an average Akure man or woman, you see courage and see people who are true to their words.”

While delivering the condolence message from the Deji of Akure, the leader of the delegation, who is the Asae of Akure Kingdom, Senior High Chief Sola Adegbonmire, described the governor’s mother as a worthy daughter of Akure Kingdom.

He stressed that the Omoregie family, where Madam Abigail Omojolagbe Makinde hailed from, is a family of exceptional and wonderful people in Akureland.

Oba Aladetoyinbo further described the death of Madam Makinde as a painful loss not only to the Makinde family but also to the entire Akure Kingdom.

He then prayed that God would grant the family the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.

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‘My mother was an epitome of love, humility’ – Gov. Makinde mourns

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The Oyo  state governor, Engr Seyi Makinde, has described his late mother, Chief (Mrs.) Abigail Omojolagbe Makinde, as an epitome of love and humility, despite being a disciplinarian.

The governor stated this on Friday while receiving the National Working Committee (NWC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by the National Chairman, Prince Uche Sencondus, on a condolence visit to his house at Ikolaba GRA, Ibadan.

According to a statement signed by the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Makinde, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, the governor expressed gratitude to the PDP NWC, noting that the fact that the leadership of the party made it to Ibadan barely 24 hours after Mama’s demise showed the love they have for him.

The statement also noted that apart from the PDP NWC entourage, the Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland, Edo, and Delta States, Alhaji Daud Akinola, Chief Imam of Ibadanland, Sheikh AbdulGaniyy Abubakri Agbotomokekere, the Grand Mufti of Ibadanland, Sheikh Abdul Fatai Alaga, and other Muslim leaders also paid condolence visits to the governor.

Similarly, the Oyo State Judiciary led by the Chief Justice of the state, Justice Muntar Abimbola, and the General Officer Commanding, 2 Div, Nigerian Army, Ibadan, Major General Anthony Omozoje, were also at the Makinde residence to condole with the governor.

Speaking while receiving the PDP entourage, which included the National Organising Secretary, Col. Austin Akobundu (retd); Deputy National Secretary; National Financial Secretary, Alhaji Abdullahi MaiBasira; National Woman Leader, Hajia Mariya Waziri; National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, as well a leader of the PDP from Osun State, Hon. Soji Adagunodo, Governor Makinde said the family remains grateful to God for the life Mama lived.

He said: “I want to thank you most sincerely for this condolence visit. I want to say, on behalf of myself, my wife, immediate family, and extended family, we are very grateful and appreciative of this visit. This happened yesterday morning and you are here this morning. It shows that you truly love me. So, I want to say thank you.

“Actually, we were preparing for my mummy’s 81st birthday, which would have been on the November 7, exactly three weeks from yesterday. But who are we to question God?

“We are grateful to God for the life she lived. To us, she was an epitome of love, humility. She was tough. If you see that trait in some of us, it came from her. And we also thank God that it was not like we were carrying her from one hospital to the other. She died peacefully in her sleep. So, we thank God for what He has done.”

Governor Makinde, who also took the opportunity to appreciate the PDP NWC for the confidence it had in him to lead the Ondo State governorship campaign, said what the outcome of the election meant was that the party would have to go back to the drawing board, adding that the campaign council will submit a report as soon as practicable.

“I will also like to use this opportunity to thank the National Working Committee of our great party for the opportunity you gave to us to lead the campaign in Ondo State. We can’t question God for the outcome of that election. What it means is that we have to go back to the drawing board. We will be submitting a report of those areas where we fell short, to the NWC as soon as practicable.

“I really want to use this opportunity to thank all of you who were there in Akure for the love of our party and for the support that you gave to our candidate in Ondo State.

“Once again, my Chairman, I am appreciative of this visit and I thank you and all the members of the NWC of our party.”

Earlier, the PDP national chairman said that the visit was to condole with the governor and the family for the loss of their mother.

He said: “A time like this is the time you know those who care and those who are with you. Unfortunately, we have two situations on our hands. We lost the chairman of the party in Zamfara. Obviously, we divided ourselves; the Deputy National Chairman of the party left for Zamfara yesterday morning for the burial of our late chairman of the party. And I and the rest of us in the National Working Committee leadership decided yesterday to come to Ibadan today.

“We are here by the grace of God to console you and the rest of the members of your family. We have no other way to do it than to join you in prayers.

“It is a very painful experience that you have to go through, sometimes alone. I know what it is because I have experienced it. It is only God that can fill the vacuum in your heart because the care of a mother is quite different from that of a father.

“So, on behalf of the leadership of our party, we are here to console you on this condolence visit. The Lord will strengthen you. And because you are one of our best and doing good works for the people of Oyo State and at this time that you are giving out your best, suddenly, God who gives has taken your beloved mother.

“We are here to share the pain and sorrow with you and to let you know we will continue in prayers during this period, even as we prepare for the funeral. After the funeral, we will continue to pray for you, your immediate and larger family. It is important for us to do so, having worked with you and having seen you as a man who is compassionate and cares for others.

“Today, we are here with you and we pray that God will energise you at this period and stretch His right hand of righteousness to touch every one of the members of the family to bear this great loss.

“Therefore, as members of the National Working Committee, we pray that God will keep you now and thereafter to make you continue to do the good work for the people of Oyo State

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Nigeria: Group drums support for #ENDSARS

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Benchmark Group of Nigeria on Friday declared its support for the ongoing peaceful #EndSARS protests, as Nigerians  speak up against police brutality.

Akanbi Bukola, founder of the group in a chat with Mega Icon Magazine said it is imperative to identify with Nigerians as protests continue around the country to end police brutality and the abuse of power by the institution established to protect its citizenry.

She noted that aside corruption and oppression from the hands of some elements of the Nigeria Police Force, “this time around, Nigerians, irrespective of faith, ethnic or political biases,  must come together to eradicate police brutality once and for all in the society”.

According to her, for many Nigerians, the police has failed to fulfill its mandate of providing public security as enshrined in the constitution, adding that officers are now viewed more as predators than protectors.

Akanbi lamented further that Nigerians struggling to make ends meet are accosted on a daily basis by these officers who demand bribes and commit abuses against them as a means of extorting money.

“Those who fail to pay are usually threatened with arrest and physical harm, by those expected to protect them”, she said.

Akanbi, however called for the overall reform of the country’s police force.

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