HEIGHTENED tension pitting the United States and Iran in the Middle East has compelled the former’s embassy in Tanzania to issue a security alert for its residents living in the East African nation.
The tension follows the assassination of Iranian general who was the head of that country’s Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, who was killed in a drone strike last Friday.
Soleimani, 62, headed Iran’s elite Quds Force, and was tasked with protecting and boosting Iran’s influence in the Middle East.
The military commander was assassinated in a US drone strike in Iraq on Friday on the orders of President Donald Trump.
Following the assassination, the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed ‘severe revenge’ for the death of the military leader.
However, President Trump warned that in the event of retaliation for Soleimani’s death, the United States will respond and “strike very fast and very hard” if Tehran attacked Americans or its assets.
It is on that backdrop that the US embassy in Tanzania warned its citizens stating: “There is heightened tension in the Middle East that may result in security risks to U.S. citizens abroad.
“The embassy will continue to review the security situation and will provide additional information as needed.”
It further advised the American citizens to be aware of their surroundings, staying alert in locations frequented by tourists and review their personal security plans.
The Americans in Tanzania have also been advised to ensure that they possess updated travel documents and ensure that they are easily accessible.
“(You should as well) enrol in the Smart Traveller Enrolment Programme (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency,” the alert urged.
From Iran, reports said yesterday that huge crowds had packed the streets of the capital Tehran for the funeral of the slain Iranian military commander.
During his career, Soleimani was said to have been supporting Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s civil conflict.
He was also said to have been aiding the Shia militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon and guided Iraqi militia groups against Islamic State. Soleimani was hailed as a national hero in Iran and widely considered the second most powerful man in the country after Supreme Leader Khamenei.
However, the US saw him as a terrorist, and President Trump said Soleimani was plotting “imminent” attacks on US diplomats and military personnel.
State televisions showed huge crowds in Tehran for his funeral yesterday and put the people, who turned out to pay him homage as “millions,” although this is yet to be verified.
In the country’s streets, people cried and thumbed their chest, while others clutched his pictures, wailing “death to America.”
Following yesterday’s funeral, the general’s remains will be taken to Qom, one of the centres of Shia Islam, for a ceremony ahead of burial in his hometown of Kerman Today (Tuesday).