The the procession began at the Imam Kadhim shrine in Baghdad, one of the most revered sites in Shia Islam (Photo Credit: Reuters)
Iraq's prime minister attended a funeral procession for Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, Iraqi paramilitary chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and others killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad on Saturday. According to reports, thousands of mourners marched in the funeral procession through Baghdad with many chanting: "Death to America". General Soleimani will be given a public farewell in Tehran on Sunday, it reported quoting officials in Iran.
General Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds force and mastermind of its regional security strategy, was killed in an airstrike early Friday near the Iraqi capital's international airport. Soleimani and Mohandis were killed along with eight others in a precision drone strike early Friday as they drove away from Baghdad international airport in two vehicles.
Many of the mourners were dressed in black, and they carried Iraqi flags and the flags of Iran-backed militias that are fiercely loyal to Soleimani. According to The Guardian, the procession began at the Imam Kadhim shrine in Baghdad, one of the most revered sites in Shia Islam. Mourners marched in the streets alongside militia vehicles in a solemn procession.
The mourners, many of them in tears, chanted: “No, No, America,” and “Death to America, death to Israel.”
Iraqi prime minister Adel Abdel Mahdi joined Muhandis associate Hadi al-Ameri, Shiite cleric Ammar al-Hakim, former premier Nuri al-Maliki and other pro-Iran figures in a large crowd.
The coffins were first brought to a revered Shiite shrine in Baghdad's Kadhimiya district. The crowds then accompanied them south to a point near the Green Zone, home to government offices and foreign embassies, including America. The dignitaries then accompanied the coffins into the Green Zone for an official ceremony.
Funeral processions were also being held in the holy Shia cities of Karbala and Najaf, Iranian officials said, before Suleimani’s remains are returned to Iran on Sunday morning. Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, would lead a prayer ceremony for Suleimani in Tehran and his body would be buried in his hometown of Kerman, Iranian outlets reported.
Their deaths sparked fears of a looming proxy war between Iran and the United States on Iraqi soil. Iran has vowed harsh retaliation, raising fears of an all-out war.
US President Donald Trump says he ordered the strike to prevent a conflict. His administration says Soleimani was plotting a series of attacks that endangered American troops and officials, without providing evidence.
As tensions soared across the region, there were reports overnight of an airstrike on a convoy of Iran-backed militiamen north of Baghdad. Hours later, the Iraqi army denied any airstrike had taken place. The US-led coalition also denied carrying out any airstrike.
The Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella group of mostly Iran-backed militias, and security officials had reported the airstrike in Taji, north of the capital. An Iraqi security official had said five people were killed and two vehicles were destroyed.
The assassination came as Iraq-US tensions were on all time high already after a two-day siege of the US embassy in Baghdad by a group of PMF militiamen and their supporters. The Pentagon said Soleimani had masterminded the embassy attack.
The siege was in response to US airstrikes on camps run by a PMF-affiliated militia particularly closely aligned with Tehran, which in turn was a reprisal for that militia's killing of a US contractor in an attack on an Iraqi army base on Friday.