BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of Iraqis chanting anti-US slogans streamed to Baghdad’s central square on Sunday to mark the anniversary of the U.S. killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
In the last days of President Donald Trump’s presidency, the rally coincided with growing tensions between Iran and the United States and many in the crowd demanded revenge.
Soleimani, leader of an elite overseas unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, was killed on Jan. 3, 2020, in a U.S. drone strike on his convoy at Baghdad airport, an attack that took U.S.-Iranian hostilities into uncharted waters and stoked concern about a major conflagration.
Washington accuse Soleimani of masterminding attacks on US forces in the area by Iranian-aligned militias.
Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF)
Demonstrators gathering at Tahrir square in response to calls by an assortment of militia groups. Also, it known collectively as the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), which are mostly backed and trained by Iran, waved the Iraqi flag and chanted anti-American slogans. For example, “America is the Great Satan”.
On Saturday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif urged Trump not to be “trapped” by an alleged Israeli attempt to cause a war through attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq, suggesting ongoing regional pressures.
On the anniversary of Soleimani’s assassination, an Israeli official dismissed the charge as “nonsense”. Also, he said it was Israel that needed to be on alert for potential Iranian attacks.
United States blame Iran-backed militias for frequent rocket attacks on U.S. installations in Iraq. It includes near the U.S. embassy. No known groups backed by Iran have asserted transparency.
In a message of deterrence to Iran last week, the U.S. military flew two nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to the Middle East. However, the bombers have since left the area.
Lastly, in a virtual funeral procession held in tribute to the two victims, thousands of mourners gathered on Saturday evening on the highway leading to Baghdad airport.
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