The United States struck a significant and potentially risky blow against Iran, killing the leader of the nation’s elite Quds Force in an airstrike in Iraq.

The Pentagon confirmed the death of Quds Force Commander General Qassem Soleimani in a statement late Thursday, saying the strike was launched, “at the direction” of U.S. President Donald Trump.

It further described the strike as a “decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad.”

“General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” the statement said.

“This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans,” it said. “The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.”

The United States Friday urged its citizens to leave Iraq immediately. The embassy in Baghdad is closed and all consular services have been suspended.