‘World War 3’ interest spikes after US kills Iran’s top general

Phrase made up all of the top trending searches after 

Former State Department official warns of 'terrible reprisals' after deadly airstrike

The phrase "World War 3" has seen a surge of popularity after the news that the US had killed Iran's top general.

As news broke that the US had killed Qassem Soleimani and others in an airstrike near Baghdad airport, worry that the event could lead to an escalation in conflict and warfare across the world led people to search for the phrase on Google, and talk about it on Twitter.

Various global powers have warned that the strike could lead to further violence that could be felt across the world.

"We are waking up in a more dangerous world. Military escalation is always dangerous," France's deputy minister for foreign affairs, Amelie de Montchalin, told RTL radio. "When such actions, such operations, take place, we see that escalation is underway."

The concern about further violence meant that the phrase was among the most trending topics in the world, with various posts on Twitter referencing World War 3 or "#WWIII". Every single one of the UK's top trending topics related to the news story, with other trending topics including Trump, Iraq, Iran, middle east and Soleimani.

On Google, searches for the phrase also surged. While there is always some interest in the possibility of global warfare, Google showed that searches went up almost 100 times from 1am, when the killing was announced.

It also led to interest in the trend itself. One of the breakout searches on Google over the day after the announcement was "why is world war three trending", according to Google's Trends tool.

The interest in the phrase and its trending on social networks led to a flurry of memes that made lighthearted reference to the possible conflict.

Experts have said that it is unlikely the attack will lead to all-out war, but that it is likely to lead to more tension across the world.

Asked whether the US air strike could lead to all-out war, former national security advisor Lord Ricketts told BBC Radio 4's World At One programme: "I don't think so, no. I don't think either the Americans or the Iranians want all-out war, but a targeted strike is not a strategy and I think what everybody is worrying about is understanding what happens next, where do we go from here?"

He added: "It gives the Iranians the option of attacking Western targets right across the Middle East on a timing of their choice, and I think that some kind of target is inevitable."

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